Open Government Initiative Blog
- Posted byon December 16, 2009 at 10:03 AM EST
In order to democratize data and advance the President’s agenda of an open, transparent and participatory government, the Data.gov platform was launched on May 21, 2009, with 47 datasets. Today, we have over 118,000 datasets and have received more than 47 million hits. Since the launch, many state, local and international governments have followed the path to democratize data through their own platforms. From San Francisco to the United Kingdom, there is a global movement to share public sector data to unleash the creativity of citizens, drive transparency and ensure accountability. Data transparency can spur economic, scientific, and educational innovation by making it easier to build applications, conduct analysis, and perform research.
The current version of Data.gov platform is just the beginning. We’ve developed a Data.gov Concept of Operations and would appreciate your input. Following are the key principles as we continue to evolve Data.gov:
- Focus on Access
Data.gov is designed to increase access to government data as close to the authoritative source as possible. The goal is to strengthen our democratic institutions through a transparent, collaborative and participatory platform while fostering development of innovative applications (e.g. visualizations, mash-ups) and analysis by third parties. Policy analysts, researchers, application developers, non-profit organizations, entrepreneurs and the general public should have numerous resources for accessing, understanding and using the vast array of government datasets.
- Open Platform
Data.gov will use a modular architecture with application programming interfaces (API) to facilitate shared services for agencies and enable the development of third party tools. The architecture, APIs and services will evolve based on public and agency input.
- Disaggregation of Data
Data should be disaggregated from agency reports, tools or visualizations to enable direct access to the underlying data.
- Grow and Improve Through User Feedback
Feedback should be used to identify high-value datasets, help set priorities for integration of new and existing datasets and improve the usability of data and applications.
- Program Responsibility
Agency program executives and data stewards are responsible for ensuring information quality, providing context and meaning for data, protecting privacy and assuring information security.
- Rapid Integration
Agencies should rapidly integrate current and new data into Data.gov with sufficient documentation to allow the public to determine fitness for use in the targeted context.
- Embrace, Scale and Drive Best Practices
Data.gov will implement, enhance and propagate best practices for data and information management, sharing and dissemination across agencies, with our state, local and tribal partners as well as internationally.
The Administration is making available high-value data that helps promote national priorities and improve the everyday lives of Americans through Data.gov. When the Department of Agriculture makes nutrition information available, families can make smarter eating choices. When the Department of Education makes key information available about colleges and universities, students can make better-informed decisions about the quality and cost of their education. When the Department of Labor makes safety information available, employers can better protect workers.
We’ve posted the Concept of Operations and invite you to join the dialogue on Data.gov. Through initiatives like Data.gov, we are laying a new foundation that changes the default setting of government from closed, opaque and secretive to open, transparent and participatory.
Vivek Kundra is the Federal Chief Information Officer
- Focus on Access
- Posted byon December 14, 2009 at 6:23 PM EST
Cross-posted from the Office of Science and Technology Policy's OSTP blog
On Tuesday, the Open Government Initiative published the new Open Government Directive. The Directive is not the first – only the latest – in a long timeline of open government milestones during the course of the last year. Since the President signed the executive memorandum on Transparency and Open Government as his first executive action, innovators across the government have been working to create a more accountable and effective government. The Progress Report on Open Government for the American People explains what’s been done to date and where we go from here. Now we need to enlist your help with holding “our feet to the fire” and ensuring that we continue to succeed at changing the way that Washington works.
Next Steps: The White House Open Government Initiative Dashboard
The Open Government Directive calls for the creation of an Open Government Dashboard under the leadership of the CTO and CIO. As agencies implement their open government plans per the Directive, we will use this Dashboard to measure progress and impact, including agencies’ success at developing open government plans across the Executive branch. The Dashboard will combine quantitative and qualitative measures of progress and we are looking to you for your input about what metrics the Dashboard should measure.
Examples of quantitative measures could include:
- Has the agency completed its requirements under the Directive, such as creating an open government webpage, completing an open government plan with public consultation, and posting three new data sets on data.gov?
- Has the agency appointed an “innovation leader” or designated one or more officials to lead the agency’s open government effort?
- What is the percentage change of information the agency publishes online in open, machine-readable formats over the year before?
- How many FOIA requests the agency has resolved and still has pending and the percentage change?
- Does the Secretary or senior officials host a blog, do online townhalls or webchats, or webcast public hearings?
- Does the agency’s Federal Advisory Committees make any use of new tools to facilitate participation by members outside of Washington? Public participation? Work in between meetings?
Examples of qualitative measures could include:
- How does the agency and the public characterize the agency’s level of openness?
- Is the agency successfully posted high-value data, such as information that increases agency accountability and responsiveness; improves public knowledge of the agency and its operations; further sthe core mission of the agency; creates economic opportunity; or responds to need and demand, as identified through public consultation?
- Does the agency sponsor the creation of any “data platforms” for sharing data across agencies and/or levels of government?
- What one new transparency, participation, and collaboration initiative has the agency undertaken in the past year and is planning to undertake next year?
- How does the agency currently get input from scientific experts?
- How well does the agency consult with the public? What innovations are currently in use?
- What impediments, if any, are impeding the agency from undertaking more innovations in participation and collaboration?
Please give us your feedback on the metrics for open government. What would should the dashboard track? What are the best ways to measure progress and the impact of that progress?
We invite your suggestions via the Open Government blog.
Beth Noveck is United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer and Director of the White House Open Government Initiative
- Posted byon December 14, 2009 at 2:29 PM EST
From day one of his Administration, a top priority for President Obama has been changing the way Washington works by making government more open, accountable and accessible to all Americans. Today, the President took another important step toward bringing that change to Washington—and toward fulfilling his promise to have the most transparent government in history—by successfully resolving a longstanding dispute about missing White House emails dating from the previous Administration.
First a little background. The missing email problem was first identified in 2005, when the Office of Administration conducted an internal analysis suggesting that millions of emails from the Executive Office of the President ("EOP"), created between March 2003 and October 2005, might be missing. Approximately two years later, in September 2007, the National Security Archive ("NSA") and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics ("CREW") filed lawsuits against the EOP and the National Archives seeking to recover any missing emails. The litigation continued for over a year, and involved numerous motions and other courtroom fights.
Shortly after taking office, President Obama made it a priority to resolve this dispute (which concerns the previous Administration's emails only). The White House quickly began discussions with NSA and CREW, and the parties agreed to stay the litigation on March 31, 2009—a temporary pause, in the hopes of working things out.
Today, the White House is pleased to announce that the parties have reached an agreement to settle the pending lawsuits. As part of the agreement, the White House will restore millions of emails from back-up tapes related to at least 33 different days during the Bush Administration. The millions of restored emails will be transferred to the National Archives. They eventually will be made available to historians, students, and the general public under laws providing for the release of such documents from prior administrations.
The President is firmly committed to ensuring that the records of this Administration—as well as those of all previous administrations—are properly retained and preserved. We are pleased to see this matter reach an amicable resolution. We thank the EOP’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the Justice Department for helping us resolve this case and ensure the preservation of this Administration’s emails. Also, we especially want to thank CREW and NSA for their hard work with us in bringing the case to a successful conclusion and in promoting openness in government.
Norm Eisen is special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform
- Posted byon December 11, 2009 at 4:29 PM EST
Thank you to everyone who joined in for the live chat earlier this week. Given the critical role the American people played in shaping the Open Government Directive, it was exciting to be able to unveil it directly to all of you. There were so many excellent questions that we weren’t able to get to them all on Tuesday. By way of this email, I will endeavor to tackle a few more.
Dave Smith of Scranton Pennsylvania wrote: Out of the myriad data assets held in federal government, how can we prioritize and incentivize publishing those which provide maximal benefit to a large community of stakeholders?
Great question, Dave. Like you, I agree that it will be critical for agencies to prioritize the most valuable data sets. That’s why the Directive asks each agency to start by identifying three high-value data sets to publish online in the first 45 days.
What does it mean for a data set to be high value? The Directive defines “high-value” information as “information that can be used to increase agency accountability and responsiveness; improve public knowledge of the agency and its operations; further the core mission of the agency; create economic opportunity; or respond to need and demand as identified through public consultation.”
As you can see, public consultation is hardwired into the definition. So, we will be looking to you and your fellow Americans to identify the jewels. You can start today, by suggesting specific data sets on Data.gov. The most compelling recommendations will tell us what you will do with the data once it is released to the public. For example, when the National Archives and Records Administration published the Federal Register in XML, a number of non-profits stepped up to manipulate the information in ways that made the content more meaningful to citizens. You can learn more about the power of this public-private partnership.
Russ Gaskin of Washington, DC commented: [W]ould like an example of what citizen participation might look like under this directive.
Russ, I expect citizen participation initiatives to build on the outburst of creativity and experimentation we’ve seen in this space in the first 10 months of this Administration.
For example, Open for Questions gave Americans across the nation a direct line to the Administration to ask exactly what they wanted to know about the Administration’s efforts to get the economy back on track. Openinternet.gov enriched the official record on net neutrality with more than 22,000 comments. Across the country and online, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been seeking the best ideas for the next generation of school reform through his Listening and Learning Tour. A Health IT Online Forum is currently drawing on the expertise of stakeholders on the front lines of healthcare delivery to uncover new strategies to accelerate the adoption of Health IT. And, just yesterday, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy launched the Public Access Policy Forum to better understand how the Executive Branch might best enhance public access to peer reviewed papers arising from all federal science and technology agencies.
Of course, I would be remiss not to mention the unprecedented three-phase public consultation process (brainstorming, discussion, drafting) that shaped the Open Government Directive itself. You can learn more about the Open Government Initiative public consultation process and other innovations in participatory decision making in the Open Government Progress Report to the American People and in the White House Open Government Innovations Gallery.
At the same time, I hope that all of you will engage in the agency public consultation processes that will shape their Open Government plans. I know that Washington does not have a monopoly on the best ideas and want your ideas for how we can make participation opportunities more meaningful for citizens.
Steve Ressler of Tampa Bay, FL asked: Will there be Open Gov Scorecard or Awards for agencies?
Yes! As agencies implement their open government plans, we will need to measure progress and impact. The White House Open Government Initiative will create a dashboard to track agencies’ Open Government Plans and access open government in the Executive branch. This is another area where we will need your help. Keep your eyes peeled for a blog posting later today that will ask for your feedback on the metrics for Open Government. We welcome your input and that of members of GovLoop. You will be able to find it right here on whitehouse.gov/open.
With that, I will wrap up for today. As we move to implement the Directive across the Executive Branch, I hope all of you will continue to participate, to share your expertise and insights, and to ask the hard questions.
Aneesh Chopra is the Federal Chief Technology Officer and the Associate Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
- Posted byon December 11, 2009 at 4:15 PM EST
In testimony before the Senate Budget Committee’s Task Force on Government Performance, Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra underscored the critical role of transparency, participation, and collaboration in driving government performance.
The “closed, secretive” approach historically used to oversee more than $70 billion in Federal IT investments failed taxpayers, Kundra argued, leaving them to “spen[d] billions on systems that were mismanaged, poorly planned or ill-conceived from the start.”
In contrast, the IT Dashboard launched on June 30th enables anyone with a web browser to track Federal IT investments and hold the government accountable for results. “Even though it is less than six months old, the IT Dashboard is already changing the way in which agencies manage their IT investments,” Kundra said. For example, in July 2009, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it would temporarily halt 45 IT projects which were either behind schedule or over budget. After a thorough review of each project, 12 of these projects were cancelled. “We were able to catch these projects, in part, thanks to the IT Dashboard, which helped shed light on the performance of projects across the Federal government,” Kundra concluded.
Similarly, Chopra emphasized that – when coupled with policy leadership and management – “[open government] principles can serve as the foundation for data-driven performance.” Chopra pointed to specific examples in which the Federal government utilized “low-cost information technologies to do what it uniquely can – making high-quality data available, coordinating standards activities across many disparate actors, moving federally-funded research into development and deployment, hosting prizes and competitions – while leaving it to citizens, companies, non-profits, and academic institutions to build innovative tools and services on top of the platform.”
Beth Noveck is United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer and Director of the White House Open Government Initiative
- Posted byon December 10, 2009 at 8:43 PM EST
Comment on this post at the OSTP blog.
Yesterday we announced the launch of the Public Access Forum, sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Beginning with today’s post, we look forward to a productive online discussion.
One of our nation's most important assets is the trove of data produced by federally funded scientists and published in scholarly journals. The question that this Forum will address is: To what extent and under what circumstances should such research articles—funded by taxpayers but with value added by scholarly publishers—be made freely available on the Internet?
The Forum is set to run through Jan. 7, 2010, during which time we will focus sequentially on three broad themes (you can access the full schedule here). In the first phase of this forum (Dec. 10th-20th) we want to focus on the topic of Implementation. Among the questions we’d like to have you, the public and various stakeholders, consider are:
- Who should enact public access policies? Many agencies fund research the results of which ultimately appear in scholarly journals. The National Institutes of Health requires that research funded by its grants be made available to the public online at no charge within 12 months after publication. Which other Federal agencies may be good candidates to adopt public access policies? Are there objective reasons why some should promulgate public access policies and others not? What criteria are appropriate to consider when an agency weighs the potential costs (including administrative and management burdens) and benefits of increased public access?
- How should a public access policy be designed?
1. Timing. At what point in time should peer-reviewed papers be made public via a public access policy relative to the date a publisher releases the final version? Are there empirical data to support an optimal length of time? Different fields of science advance at different rates—a factor that can influence the short- and long-term value of new findings to scientists, publishers and others. Should the delay period be the same or vary across disciplines? If it should vary, what should be the minimum or maximum length of time between publication and public release for various disciplines? Should the delay period be the same or vary for levels of access (e.g. final peer reviewed manuscript or final published article, access under fair use versus alternative license)?
2. Version. What version of the paper should be made public under a public access policy (e.g., the author’s peer-reviewed manuscript or the final published version)? What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of different versions of a scientific paper?
3. Mandatory v. Voluntary. The NIH mandatory policy was enacted after a voluntary policy at the agency failed to generate high levels of participation. Are there other approaches to increasing participation that would have advantages over mandatory participation?
4. Other. What other structural characteristics of a public access policy ought to be taken into account to best accommodate the needs and interests of authors, primary and secondary publishers, libraries, universities, the federal government, users of scientific literature and the public?
We invite your comments and in particular encourage you to be specific in your thoughts and proposals, providing empirical data and specific supporting examples whenever possible so this discussion can generate maximum practical value. You may want to start by reading a more complete description of this issue as it appeared in the Federal Register.
Importantly, this is a community-moderated blog. That means we count on you to keep the forum focused and on-topic—something you can do by “voting” on comments. Voting is an expression of how germane to the topic a comment is. Voting up a comment expresses approval of the relevance. If enough people vote down a comment, the comment in question “collapses” into a link so that it doesn’t interrupt the flow of discussion. Please read the complete Terms of Participation, where you can also learn how to “flag” comments such as spam or obscenities that violate the Terms.
We welcome your thoughtful comments in this open and participatory forum.
Diane DiEuliis is Assistant Director of Life Sciences and Robynn Sturm is Assistant Deputy Chief Technology Officer in the Office of Science and Technology Policy
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