Open Government Initiative Blog

  • 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 

  • A Milestone for Expediting Air Traffic Modernization

    Yesterday, the President’s Chief Performance Officer Jeff Zients unveiled the Federal Infrastructure Projects Dashboard, an open government initiative that tracks the progress of high priority infrastructure projects as they are expedited through their regulatory review and permitting processes.

    In October I highlighted the importance one of these projects, a Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, pilot project in Houston.  NextGen is a comprehensive modernization of our Nation’s air traffic infrastructure, with the potential to save time and money for air travelers while delivering environmental benefits for communities on the ground.

  • By the Numbers: 475 Million

    475 million

    The National Archives and Record Administration has collected, on average, 475 million pages of records a year for each of the last 10 years. Thanks to new technology, both the volume and diversity of material being archived has increased, but Federal agencies aren't keeping up with this heavier load. 

    Making these records available and accessible to the public is an important step toward giving people clear and accurate information about the decisions and actions of the Federal Government. That, however, is largely dependent on taking advantage of these technology advances and making information available electronically, instead of relying on paper-based archives.

    Today, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum that will do exactly that. His memorandum instructs Federal agencies move into a digital-based record keeping system, and which will save money, promote accountability, and increase government transparency.

  • Recommitting Ourselves to Making Government More Effective

    Last week, President Obama stood with other heads of state to endorse the principles of the Open Government Partnership and launch the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan

    We are proud of the work done so far to make our government more efficient and effective, and to illustrate the breadth of work done so far, many agencies posted blogs on their achievements of the last two and a half years.  In particular, the Department of Transportation, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Department of the Treasury, Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture, and General Services Administration are recommitting themselves to the principles of open government. 

    More still, agencies are doubling down and announcing new and innovative initiatives in addition to the commitments that are already in their Open Government Plans.  For example, the Department of Justice plans to convene an Interagency Technology Working Group to focus on expanding the use of technology in the core elements of FOIA administration.   And, the Department of Housing and Urban Development will establish an Innovation Lab that will benefit HUD through the incubation of novel and unique ideas that improve interactions with customers, increase mission efficiency and efficacy, and reduce duplication of effort. 

    Agencies continue to play a lead role in making our government more open.  One initiative in our Plan commits to working to modernize the management of government records.  To that end, the Archivist of the United States David Ferriero will convene a meeting of international archivists to discuss the role they play in a more open government.  And, NASA will launch the International Space Apps Challenge to help improve public services and promote innovation through collaboration.

    The Plan that we unveiled last week, and the initiatives that agencies are continuing to implement, are part of a larger effort to fulfill the President’s commitment to make our government more “open and competent.”  In some ways, the hard work is just beginning, but we look forward to the work ahead.

    Chris Vein is the US Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Government Innovation

    Remington Gregg is Advisor for Open Government

  • Open Government Action Plan for Innovators

    On Tuesday, President Obama joined 40 Heads of State on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to unveil the U.S. National Action Plan on Open Government, an ambitious effort to promote accountability, empower people with information they “can readily find and use”, and ensure public officials tap into the expertise and wisdom of the American people when setting policy.

    Consistent with the goals of harnessing the creativity of the American people, a national plan for the United States has been designed in consultation with a wide range of civil society groups, academics, business leaders, and the general public.  This plan will support our Nation’s job creators, especially in industries investing in productivity-enhancing digital infrastructure.  In the healthcare sector alone, a recently published McKinsey study estimated a possible $1-300 billion annual productivity gain. Here are three highlights on how the national plan can catalyze innovation and entrepreneurship:

    • “Doubling Down” on Data.gov Communities:  Over the past two years, the Administration has published an unprecedented amount of information in “computer-friendly” formats (over 390,000 data sets) freely available for developers without intellectual property constraint. To spur use, we’ve posted over 100 challenges, prizes or contests ranging from the First Lady’s “Apps for Healthy Kids” to the Vice President’s “Apps Against Abuse” – inviting students, hobbyists and professionals alike to demonstrate our capacity to solve the seemingly unsolvable through innovation.
      • In 2011, we've worked to catalyze a growing movement of entrepreneurs and innovators harnessing open data to build sustainable new products or services through the launch of Data.gov “communities” in areas like health and energy.  The plan calls on us to double the number of communities this year by expanding into education, R&D, and public safety. More importantly, we will focus like a hawk on connecting innovators to relevant data and unapologetically celebrate those products and services making a difference in the lives of everyday Americans.
         
    • “Smart Disclosure”:  An important ingredient in driving productivity growth, especially in national priority areas like health, energy, and education, is the ability to measure outcomes. Since June 2010, the Administration has been promoting the use of disclosure as a low-cost, high-impact regulatory tool. For example, healthcare.gov provides access to health insurance market information that had previously been difficult to find – including denial rates and other relevant measures for an individual when searching for insurance options that best meet personal needs.
      • To build on this work, the plan calls out recently issued guidance to Federal agencies on “smart disclosure”. While we are broadly supporting agencies and departments over the next year to ensure the timely release of complex information in standardized, machine-readable formats, we are particularly focused on catalyzing new products and services in areas that spur productivity growth – value-based payments in healthcare, higher education and energy use.
         
    • “Government as a Platform”:  The infrastructure of the open data movement itself is evolving. While we are proud of the public reception to open government applications like data.gov, challenge.gov, the redesigned federalregister.gov and so forth, we are inspired by the limitless potential for governments within the U.S. and around the world to develop new and exciting tools that reflect openness as a core value in governance.
      • To seed this movement, the plan calls on the Administration, in partnership with the Government of India, to release “Data.gov-in-a-Box” as an open source version of the United States’ Data.gov portal and India’s “India.gov.in” document portal. In the coming months, we will contribute the core set of applications that facilitate access to open government data, the mechanisms to extend such applications by any third party developer, and to inspire the public and private sector to engage in a “Race to the Top” to facilitate the use of open data in new products and services.

    The U.S. National Action Plan includes plenty of other important initiatives to support the relationship between job creators and the government, including a commitment to publish guidelines on how to access scientific data produced through unclassified federal research funding, the ability to tap into their expertise on relevant public policy deliberations through an “ExpertNet” platform, and a global “Apps” competition drawing a global cadre of scientists and concerned citizens to harness open data to solve global challenges including weather impacts and the depletion of ocean resources.

    We remain inspired by the growing number of open innovators and are confident this plan will accelerate this trend and increase the probability we invent our way out of some of the most pressing challenges that confront us.

    Aneesh Chopra is US Chief Technology Officer