Open Government Initiative Blog

  • President Obama on Open Government: "The Essence of Democracy"

    Download Video: mp4 (582MB) | mp3 (56MB)

    This week, President Obama is in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly to meet with partners and address a range of issues with the international community, including open government.

    At the U.N. General Assembly last year, President Obama called on nations to make, "specific commitments to promote transparency, to fight corruption, to energize civic engagement, and to leverage new technologies so we can strengthen the foundations of freedom in our own countries." Today, the President outlined the progress that has already been made in response to his call to action:

    And now we see governments around the world meeting this challenge, including many represented here today.  Countries from Mexico to Turkey to Liberia have passed laws guaranteeing citizens the right to information.  From Chile to Kenya to the Philippines, civil society groups are giving citizens new tools to report corruption.  From Tanzania to Indonesia -- and as I saw firsthand during my visit to India -- rural villages are organizing and making their voices heard, and getting the public services that they need.  Governments from Brazil to South Africa are putting more information online, helping people hold public officials accountable for how they spend taxpayer dollars. 

    Here in the United States, we’ve worked to make government more open and responsive than ever before.  We’ve been promoting greater disclosure of government information, empowering citizens with new ways to participate in their democracy.  We are releasing more data in usable forms on health and safety and the environment, because information is power, and helping people make informed decisions and entrepreneurs turn data into new products, they create new jobs.  We’re also soliciting the best ideas from our people in how to make government work better.  And around the world, we’re standing up for freedom to access information, including a free and open Internet.

  • The United States Releases its Open Government National Action Plan

    “In all parts of the world, we see the promise of innovation to make government more open and accountable. And now, we must build on that progress. And when we gather back here next year, we should bring specific commitments to promote transparency; to fight corruption; to energize civic engagement; to leverage new technologies so that we strengthen the foundations of freedom in our own countries, while living up to the ideals that can light the world.”

    --President Barack Obama, September 23, 2010

    On September 23, 2010, President Obama challenged the members of the United Nations General Assembly to work together to make all governments more open and accountable to their people.  To meet that challenge, in July 2011, the United States and Brazil announced the creation of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) – a global initiative that supports efforts to promote more transparent, effective, and accountable institutions globally.  The OGP effort builds directly on steps President Obama has taken since the first full day of his Administration to strengthen democracy and promote a more efficient and effective government through greater openness.

    And today, as part the OGP effort, the U.S. and other members of the OGP Steering Committee are coming together in New York to welcome new members to the partnership and to unveil Open Government National Action Plans. As we developed a U.S. National Action Plan (“National Plan”), the Federal Government engaged in extensive consultations with external stakeholders, including a broad range of civil society groups and members of the private sector. We solicited input from the Administration’s own Open Government Working Group, comprised of senior-level representatives from executive branch departments and agencies. White House policymakers also engaged the public via a series of blog posts, requesting ideas about how to focus Open Government efforts on increasing public integrity, more effectively managing public resources, and improving public services.  

     Among the highlights of the Plan:

    • “We the People.”  The White House announced the launch of the “We the People” petition platform to give Americans a direct line to voice their concerns to the Administration via online petitions.  In addition, the Administration plans to publish the source code of the new “We the People” petition platform so that it is available to any government around the world that seeks to solicit and respond to the concerns of the public.
    • Whistleblower Protection.  Recently, Congress nearly enacted whistleblower legislation that would eliminate loopholes in existing protections, provide protections for employees in the intelligence community, and create pilot programs to explore potential structural reforms in the remedial process.  The Administration will continue to work with Congress to enact this legislation.  But if Congress remains deadlocked, the Administration will explore options for utilizing executive branch authority to strengthen and expand whistleblower protections.
    • Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.  The U.S. is committing to implementing the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).  EITI requires governments to publicly disclose their revenues from oil, gas, and mining assets, and for companies to make parallel disclosures regarding payments.  By signing onto the global standard that EITI sets, the U.S. Government can help ensure that American taxpayers are receiving every dollar due for the extraction of these valuable public resources.

    Other initiatives include: expanding the use of technology to achieve greater efficiencies in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) administration; overhaul the public participation interface on regulations.gov to help the public find, follow, and participate in Federal rulemakings; and launching ExpertNet, a platform to communicate with citizens who have expertise on a pertinent topic. There are a lot of exciting initiatives in our Plan – too many to recount in this post – but you can view the full plan here . 

    At the President’s State of the Union Address in January 2011, he said that the American people deserve a government that is “open and competent.”  Building on the efforts inaugurated by the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, and the President’s continued leadership, we look forward to the work ahead.

    Watch the video "U.S. Release Open Government Action Plan" here.

  • An Update on the Open Government U.S. National Action Plan

    The Open Government Plan of the United States will formally launch on September 20, on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City.  We are busy finalizing our National Action Plan but wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for all of the comments that we received during our public consultation. All of the responsive comments that we received can be found here

    In the meantime, we hope that you’ll stay tuned to all of the upcoming events next Tuesday in New York, including the signing of the Open Government Declaration, which will be live streamed at www.whitehouse.gov/live.

     

    Aneesh Chopra is the U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Cass Sunstein is the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

  • A Status Report on the Administration’s Commitment to Open Government

    President Obama has made open government a high priority. Greater openness renders our government more efficient and effective. It strengthens our democracy. It improves our citizens’ lives.

    To these ends, the Administration has taken many substantial steps to promote increased participation and collaboration in government, and to make government more transparent. For example, federal agencies have increased transparency through redoubled efforts to disclose more information under the Freedom of Information Act. They have implemented ambitious Open Government Plans, and made voluminous data newly available to the public.  The Administration has also made spending information more transparent, and taken steps to disclose previously sensitive government information.

    Of course, creating a more open government requires sustained effort. How best to harness new technologies in the service of open government, to strike the proper balance between transparency and the protection of national security and personal privacy, to change agency culture so that openness becomes the new normal–such issues require long-term commitment.

  • The Open Government Partnership and Development of the U.S. Open Government Plan

    The Open Government Plan of the United States will be formally launched in September on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City. As we continue our work on the plan, we want to thank you for your help and participation.  Last week, on this blog, we posed several questions asking for your ideas about how we can focus open government efforts on improving public services and increasing public integrity.  We are grateful for the helpful responses we have received, and we will be publishing all responsive submissions online in the next few weeks. 

    In response to our inquiries, some people have asked for additional information about the Open Government Partnership and the Open Government Plan, and on how they fit into the Administration’s domestic Open Government Initiative.  We provide some more detail here.   

    The White House’s Open Government Initiative is a domestic effort, launched on the President’s first full day in office, to work toward an “unprecedented level of openness in government.”  Over the past two years, responding to the President’s Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, Federal agencies have done a great deal to make information about how government works more accessible to the public, to solicit citizens’ participation in government decision-making, and to collaborate with all sectors of the economy on new and innovative solutions.  

  • The Changing Role of Federal Chief Information Officers

    Today, the Office of Management and Budget issued a memorandum (PDF) that lays out key responsibilities and authorities for Agency Chief Information Officers (CIOs). These authorities will enable CIOs to reduce the number of wasteful duplicative systems, simplify services for the American people, and deliver more effective information technology [IT] to support their agency’s mission.

    This memo builds on the work the Administration has done under the 25 Point Plan to Reform Federal IT Management, now in its eighth month of implementation. These reforms were developed to remedy what had become routine in Washington: IT projects running over budget, falling behind schedule, or failing to deliver promised functionality, hampering agency missions and wasting taxpayer dollars.

    This situation is no longer commonplace. If you take a look at the achievements every CIO has already accomplished under the reform plan, they have fundamentally changed the way the federal government manages information technology. The memorandum will help CIOs deliver on key areas to drive results and yield an even greater impact.