Open Government Initiative Blog

  • Let the Sunshine In

    This week is Sunshine Week, a joint project of the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.  Held in mid-March, Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote discussion about the importance of open government and freedom of information.

    The theme of this year’s Sunshine Week is “Put Sunshine in Your Government,” and so now is an appropriate time to reflect on the Obama Administration’s strong commitment to open government over the past three years, and more particularly to provide an update on implementation of the U.S. National Action Plan on Open Government

    President Obama unveiled the National Plan in September 2011, as part of the United States’ commitment as a founding member of the Open Government Partnership – a global effort to promote more transparent, effective, and accountable governance in countries around the world.  

  • An Open Innovation Toolbox

    The Obama Administration’s innovation agenda is aimed at finding, testing, and scaling new ideas that change the way government conducts business and delivers services through engagement with the American people.   An innovative government incorporates an entrepreneurial mindset into its daily work – taking risks, building lean organizations, and developing innovative products and services faster than the rest of the world.

  • Unconferences, Hack-A-Thons, and a Code for Livability

    This past weekend saw three amazing open government events take place in both Washington, DC and New York City.

    On Saturday, the Transportation Camp held its annual “unconference” in Washington, DC.  An unconference is a more open version of a traditional conference, allowing participants the opportunity to help shape the structure and format of the day’s events.  This year’s Transportation Camp, which was organized by OpenPlans, Mobility Lab, and Greater Greater Washington, hosted several hundred citizens, students, developers, businesses, and local and Federal government employees.  Discussion focused on ways to engage citizens in decisions affecting transportation issues – including ways to better use bike shares open data. In addition, citizens and city officials brainstormed on ways to increase access to public transportation for all users, including those with limited mobility.  And developers leveraged city and Federal datasets—ssome via the Federal  platform Data.gov—inin addition to data provided by businesses like Capital Bike Share, to create platforms and services that help citizens make more informed decisions related to their commute. 

  • Celebrating Our Veterans With “Apps for Heroes”

    Last Wednesday, we joined Dr. Jill Biden at the Code for America headquarters, a non-profit startup that has attracted dozens of civic-minded software developers spending a year building new products and services – powered, in part, by open government data – to improve the lives of everyday Americans.

  • Seeking Your Input on the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan

    On September 20, 2011, on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly, the President announced the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan.  The Plan was developed through a process that involved extensive consultations with external stakeholders, including a broad range of civil society groups and members of the private sector, to gather ideas on open government.  As we continue our work to implement the National Action Plan, we want your help.  Specifically, we’d like your input and recommendations on how to improve and help facilitate public participation – your participation – in government.      

    The United States committed to undertake 26 Open Government initiatives in the National Action Plan, and we are working to implement each of them now.  For example, the White House recently announced that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will be the senior U.S. official to lead implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, an effort to ensure that taxpayers receive every dollar due for extraction of our natural resources.  A major milestone was also reached in the development of an open government platform that will enable governments around the world to stand up their own open government data sites. And just last week, the President fulfilled a commitment made in the National Action Plan to begin a government-wide effort to reform and modernize records management policies and practices.    

    We are now requesting your assistance with one of the initiatives in the U.S. National Action Plan designed to promote public participation: 

    Develop Best Practices and Metrics for Public Participation. We will identify best practices for public participation in government and suggest metrics that will allow agencies to assess progress toward the goal of becoming more participatory. This effort will highlight those agencies that have incorporated the most useful and robust forms of public participation in order to encourage other agencies to learn from their examples.” 

    Given the focus of this initiative, we thought it would be most appropriate to invite you to provide input and ideas on best practices and metrics for public participation, including but not limited to suggestions and recommendations that address the following questions:

    • What are the appropriate measures for tracking and evaluating participation efforts in agency Open Government Plans?
    • What should be the minimum standard of good participation?
    • How should participation activities be compared across agencies with different programs, amounts of regulatory activity, budgets, staff sizes, etc.?
    • What are the most effective forms of technology and web tools to encourage public participation, engage with the private sector/non-profit and academic communities, and provide the public with greater and more meaningful opportunities to influence agencies’ plans?
    • What are possible mechanisms for agencies to increase the level of diversity of viewpoints and backgrounds brought to bear in their activities and decisions?
    • What are the most effective strategies for ensuring that participation is well-informed?
    • What are some examples of success stories involving strong public participation, as well as less-than-successful efforts, and what lessons can be drawn from them?

    Please send your thoughts to us at opengov@ostp.gov or use the web form provided, by January 3, 2012.  We will consider your ideas and input as we continue to implement the U.S. National Action Plan and develop this best practices guidance on public participation. 

    Thank you.

  • Data.gov Goes Global

    Last week, President Obama’s unprecedented efforts to advance open and transparent Government reached an important milestone. As part of a joint effort by the United States and India to build an open government platform, the U.S. team has deposited open source code– an important benchmark in developing the Open Government Platform that will enable governments around the world to stand up their own open government data sites.

    Last week’s announcement is part of a broader effort to make government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative. In September, the United States was one of eight founding governments of the Open Government Partnership,a new multilateral initiative that secures concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.The President also  unveiled the U.S. National Action Plan on Open Government, which detailed steps the United States will take to help meet the initiative’s goals.

    The plan specifically called for an effort under the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue to produce “Data.gov-in-a-Box” -- an open source version of the United States’ Data.gov data portal and India’s India.gov.in document portal.  The U.S. and India are working together to produce an open source version available for implementation by countries globally, encouraging governments around the word to stand up open data sites that promote transparency, improve citizen engagement, and engage application developers in continuously improving these efforts.  Technical teams from the U.S. and Indian governments have been working together since August of this year, with a planned launch of the open source product (which is now called the Open Government Platform (OGPL) to reflect its broad scope) in early 2012.

    The module -- paired with the software for the Open Government Platform website being developed by India -- will enable governments around the world to launch their own open government sites and increase transparency and accountability.  In the meantime, the U.S.-India team will continue to improve and integrate the modules of the Open Government Platform for the planned launch early next year.

    Steven VanRoekel is the Federal Chief Information Officer

    Aneesh Chopra is the Federal Chief Technology Officer