Open Government Initiative Blog

  • Sunshine Week: In Celebration of Civic Engagement

    This article was originally posted to

    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

    This post is part of a Sunshine Week series on 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, 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.

  • Sunshine Week: In Celebration of Open Government

    This article was originally published on

    This post is the first in a Sunshine Week series on Sunshine Week is a national initiative to celebrate and focus on government transparency and open government.

    As President Barack Obama has stated, "Openness will strengthen our democracy, and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government." This week, we celebrate Sunshine Week -- an appropriate time to discuss the importance of open government and freedom of information, and to take stock of how far we have come, and think about what more can be done.   

    Over the last few weeks, we have asked for your feedback on some of our open government efforts, and you have responded, whether in meetings with civil society or viaQuora, or a web form on We thank you for taking the time to talk to us about this important work, and we hear you – and we will continue to consult with you.

    In the spirit of Sunshine Week, the White House will highlight one initiative a day which demonstrates the Obama Administration’s continued commitment to open and accessible government. Today, we will focus on progress made improving the administration of the FOIA. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, "sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants." In our democracy, FOIA, which encourages accountability through transparency, is the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open government. 

  • Fulfilling our Commitment to Open Government

    Since taking office, President Obama has made clear that his Administration is committed to Open Government—that the Nation is made stronger by making the Federal Government accountable to citizens and by giving those citizens opportunities to participate in their government. 

    That’s why, in September 2011, President Obama, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, and the leaders of six other governments launched the global Open Government Partnership – a global effort to encourage transparent, effective, and accountable governance driven by citizens and civil society around the world.  Demonstrating the Nation’s domestic commitment to the Partnership, President Obama launched the U.S. National Action Plan on Open Government that same day, saying:; background-attachment: scroll; background-color: transparent; color: rgb(51, 51, 51); background-position: 0px 0px; background-repeat: no-repeat repeat;">

    “We pledge to be more transparent at every level -- because more information on government activity should be open, timely, and freely available to the people. We pledge to engage more of our citizens in decision-making -- because it makes government more effective and responsive. We pledge to implement the highest standards of integrity -- because those in power must serve the people, not themselves. And we pledge to increase access to technology -- because in this digital century, access to information is a right that is universal.”

    Read more..

    Lisa Ellman is Chief Counselor for the Open Government Partnership and Senior Advisor to the Chief Technology Officer and Nick Sinai is Deputy Chief Technology Officer.


  • The Code for Livability Rocks On

    Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of participating in the first Code for Livability event in Washington, DC.  An incredible group of policy makers, community leaders, and web developers came together with the purpose of developing strategies to sustain communities across the country.  From this first meeting, amazing ideas and conceptual designs for smart-phone applications were generated with the goal of bringing environmental sustainability to the forefront of peoples’ everyday lives.

    This weekend in Denver, Colorado, coders and designers will build on the success of the Code for Livability event, converging on the Uncubed coworking space to participate in the Colorado Code for Communities civic “hackathon”.  One of the first civic hacking events in the region, this event will bring together non-profits, local foundations, local and regional government agencies, Federal agencies, and private local tech startups and entrepreneurs.  “Hackathons” like this one bring together a number of people to build web and mobile applications and other products to help improve communities.  They happen in one whirlwind weekend and this one will result in two or three winning teams and applications. 

  • The Growing Open Government Movement

    The open government movement—which has emphasized transparency, collaboration, and participation at the Federal, state, and local levels—is finding increasing application on the international and diplomatic stage, as evidenced most recently by the launch of the Open Government Platform, which aims to promote government transparency and citizen engagement on a global scale.


    The Open Government Platform (OGPL) is a global initiative founded by the governments of India and the United States to make more government data, documents, tools, and processes publicly accessible through development and distribution of a freely available, open source on-line platform. By making these data available in useful machine-readable formats, the OGPL platform allows developers, analysts, media, and academia to gain new insights and develop novel applications that will enhance delivery of information and services to citizens and enable more informed decision-making.

    At last week’s U.S.-India Joint Commission Meeting on Science and Technology, OSTP Director and Presidential science and technology advisor John Holdren and Dr. Sam Pitroda, Adviser to Prime Minister of India on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovation, launched the second phase of the OGPL, which makes the platform freely available to other governments. As OGPL becomes more widely adopted, it will allow developers and civil society groups use government data to create innovative applications that help citizens and governments work together across the world. Because OGPL uses an open-source method of development, the entire OGPL community will be able to contribute to future technology enhancements, open government solutions, and community-based technical support.

    Also last week, in an agreement negotiated by the Indian government, it was announced that Rwanda has signed on as the first of two pilot countries. The United States is currently reviewing possible candidates and is expected to announce the second pilot country soon. Over the next six months, the joint U.S.- India team that created the OGPL will work with additional countries to unleash the power of open government using the worldwide open source community. 

    India and the United States have already committed to use OGPL for their respective portals and the US portal is already using portions of OGPL functionality. OGPL has released the open source code for the project, and both the United States and India expect to deploy OGPL this year based on feedback from the open source community.    

    The Open Government Platform exemplifies the belief that transparency, participation, and collaboration are universal concepts applicable to all levels of government in countries around the world.

    Chris Vein is Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Government Innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy