Open Government Initiative Blog

  • Recap: A Big Day for Open Data

    This article is cross-posted from the OSTP blog

    Yesterday, President Obama visited Austin, Texas, to kick off his Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour. At Capital Factory, a local start-up incubator, he met with technology entrepreneurs and innovative companies that are helping grow our economy and create jobs by building new products and services.

    One of those companies, Stormpulse, uses freely available government weather data to help businesses protect themselves and their assets from potentially hazardous weather.  Stormpulse CEO Matt Wensing has said that “open government data is one of the giants on whose shoulders we stand.  Easier access to government data means growing companies like ours can offer significant value to citizens and enterprises.”

    Stormpulse_2013

    President Barack Obama watches CEO Matt Wensing demonstrate Stormpulse during a tour of Capital Factory in Austin, Texas, May 9, 2013. Capital Factory founder Josh Baer and Todd Park, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, watch at right. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    Indeed, earlier in the day, in a major step to provide innovative companies like Stormpulse with increased access to government data, the President signed a groundbreaking Executive Order and published a new open data policy requiring that going forward, data generated by the government be made available in open, machine-readable formats, while appropriately safeguarding privacy, confidentiality, and security.

  • Open Government: A Time for Self-Assessment

    This article was originally published on the White House Blog

    The role of citizens in our democracy does not end with your vote. America’s never been about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us together through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government.” -- President Barack Obama, November 7, 2012

    Since the first day of the Obama Administration, the Federal government has worked to make government more efficient, effective, and responsive to citizens’ needs. The Administration has harnessed new technology to engage the public, worked to disclose information more quickly, and given citizens a greater voice in decision-making.

    In September 2011, the Administration’s work was launched on the world stage when President Obama and other world leaders endorsed the principles of the global Open Government Partnership (OGP). As part of our commitment to OGP, the United States launched the National Action Plan, a set of twenty-six concrete commitments that help increase public integrity, promote public participation, manage public resources more effectively, and improve public services. Praised by civil society organizations and the public, the Plan stands as a great example of what we can do as a country when government, civil society, and the public collaborate together. As the President has said, “Put simply, our countries are stronger when we engage citizens beyond the halls of government.” 

  • Sunshine Week: Increasing Access to Publicly Funded Research

    Ed. Note: This post is part of a Sunshine Week series on whitehouse.gov. Sunshine Week is a national initiative to celebrate and focus on government transparency and open government.

    During Sunshine Week, we celebrate the ways government can improve public use of government information. Much of the discussion this week has been on steps the Administration has taken to liberate government-owned data, but we recently took an equally important step to increase public access to the results of research funded by the Federal Government. Last month, John Holdren, President Obama’s science and technology advisor and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, issued a memo to the heads of Federal agencies with research and development budgets over $100 million requiring them to draft plans to dramatically increase public access to the results of the research they support. The memo focused on two key products of funded research: peer-reviewed scholarly publications and scientific data.

    The rationale for the policy was made plain in a Web posting by Dr. Holdren in response to a We the People petition that called for the government to develop such a policy—a petition, incidentally, that garnered more than 65,000 signatures!

    “We know that scientific research supported by the Federal Government spurs scientific breakthroughs and economic advances when research results are made available to innovators,” Dr. Holdren wrote. “Policies that mobilize these intellectual assets for re-use through broader access can accelerate scientific breakthroughs, increase innovation, and promote economic growth… Americans should have easy access to the results of research they help support.”

  • Sunshine Week: In Celebration of Transparency

    Ed. Note: This post is part of a Sunshine Week series on WhiteHouse.gov. Sunshine Week is a national initiative to celebrate and focus on government transparency and open government.

    Sunshine Week is about the importance of transparency, and the public’s right to know what its government is doing. That philosophy has been at the core of the Obama Administration from Day One, and over the last four years we’ve let a lot of sunshine in—including in some domains that are not widely known to the general public but are nonetheless important and deserving of illumination.

    In one representative example, the U.S. Government in September 2011 committed to implement the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)—a voluntary, global effort designed to increase transparency, strengthen the accountability of natural resource revenues, and build public trust for the governance of these vital activities.  Sunshine Week is a good time to reflect on the notable steps the Administration has taken in the last year-and-a-half to fulfill its commitment to implement EITI, which was launched as part of the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan.

    In the true spirit of EITI and the Open Government Partnership, we endeavored from the start to undertake this effort in a collaborative and inclusive fashion, engaging government, the private sector, civil society, and the public. We began with a comprehensive stakeholder assessment, which involved two public comment periods, a webinar, a public workshop, and public listening sessions in Anchorage, Denver, Houston, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C.  We conducted tribal consultations at meetings of the National Congress of American Indians, the Alaska Federation of Natives, and tribal advisory committees, and we met with individual tribes engaged in resource extraction. We also consulted with and learned from our counterparts in other countries who have already implemented EITI, to garner best practices. 

  • Sunshine Week: In Celebration of Civic Engagement

    This article was originally posted to whitehouse.gov

    Ed. Note: This post is part of our Sunshine Week series on the blog. Sunshine Week is a national initiative to celebrate and focus on government transparency and open government.  

    We have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and the wisdom, energy, and creativity of the American public is the nation’s greatest asset. Sunshine Week seeks to encourage public participation in government, and the U.S. has worked hard to expand opportunities for civic engagement. As one example of this, We the People gives the Obama Administration a way to connect with the public on the issues that matter most to them. 

    We the People allows anyone to create or sign a petition asking the Administration to take action on an issue. If the petition gets enough signatures, the Administration issues an official response.

    Since its creation, 7.2 million people have logged more than 11.6 million signatures on more than 178,000 petitions on issues ranging from education to immigration to tax policy.Beyond the sheer volume of participation, We the People has demonstrated that the Administration is responsive to the questions and concerns of the public — even if they are not necessarily the issues that the Administration talks about every day.

    In many cases, petitions posted on We the People have helped spur discussions of important policy issues at the White House and across the Administration, and serve as a catalyst for change. We’ve also used the platform to announce new directions in policy or to continue a dialogue with people who have an interest in this issue. Read the full post...

  • Sunshine Week: All Hands on Deck for Open Data

    This article was originally posted on whitehouse.gov

    This post is part of a Sunshine Week series on WhiteHouse.gov. Sunshine Week is a national initiative to celebrate and focus on government transparency and open government.

    On Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of open.ny.gov, a new data transparency website that features valuable information about New York State economic development, recreation, and public services. The announcement is an important contribution to the growing “all hands on deck” effort to make government data accessible as fuel for innovation and economic growth.

    Unleashing “Open Data”—data freely available in formats that are easy to use in new and innovative ways, while rigorously protecting privacy—has been a priority for the Obama Administration since the beginning. As the President has said, “information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset.”

    In addition to catalyzing entrepreneurship, innovation, scientific discovery, and other public benefits, Open Data also helps ensure a transparent, accountable, and open government—goals being celebrated across the Nation this week as part of Sunshine Week.

    A great example of an Open Data resource that has led to concrete benefits for citizens and the economy is weather data/the Global Positioning System. Since being made freely available, beginning decades ago, entrepreneurs and innovators have used these information sources to create navigation systems, weather newscasts and warning systems, location-based apps, precision farming tools, and much more.