Open Government and the National Plan
Over the last two and a half years, President Obama has demonstrated a strong commitment to making government information more accessible to the public and to involving citizens in decisions that affect their lives. The resulting commitment to “Open Government” has spurred a wide range of initiatives. Most recently, the United States has worked with many other nations to create an Open Government Partnership that will promote that commitment around the world.
Since taking office, the President has directed his Administration to take significant steps to make the federal government more efficient and effective through three guiding principles: transparency, participation, and collaboration. In his January 2009 Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, the President instructed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue an Open Government Directive requiring agencies to release data to the American people that they “can readily find and use.” With the help of the public, agencies produced detailed Open Government Plans to take specific steps and to establish long-term goals to achieve greater openness and transparency. These plans are located on agency home pages at [agency domain].gov/open. With direct input from the American people, agency plans continue to evolve and improve.
As agencies developed their Open Government Plans, we also made unprecedented amounts of information available to the public, in part through a centralized government platform, data.gov. This platform now provides the public with access to hundreds of thousands of agency data sets on a broad range of issues -- from crime, air quality, and budgetary matters, to automobile safety seats, airline performance, weather patterns, and product recalls.
The Administration’s Open Government efforts are now taking on an international flavor with the multi-national Open Government Partnership, which Secretary Clinton recently announced. As Secretary Clinton stated, “We believe this new global effort to improve governance, accelerate economic growth, and empower citizens worldwide is exactly what we should all be doing together in the 21st century.”
Over time, countries participating in the Open Government Partnership have pledged to release a Country Action Plan that tackles one or more of five key challenges that face governments today, such as improving public services, increasing public integrity, more effectively managing public resources, creating safer communities, and increasing corporate accountability.
In this spirit, the United States will produce a plan that builds on existing initiatives and practices. The plan will be released when the Open Government Partnership is formally launched on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City in September.
As part of the Open Government Initiative, we have benefited from knowledgeable and constructive input from external stakeholders with strong commitments to the principles of open government. The list is long and continues to grow.
We have initiated consultations about the Open Government Plan, beginning with a number of meetings with key external stakeholders, and our consultation is now moving to a new phase in which we seek ideas through this platform, in response to specific questions that we raise through a series of blog posts. We will have a final meeting with stakeholders as we finalize our plan.
Today, we are asking for your thoughts on ideas related to two of the key challenges – improving public services and increasing public integrity:
- How can regulations.gov, one of the primary mechanisms for government transparency and public participation, be made more useful to the public rulemaking process?
- OMB is beginning the process of reviewing and potentially updating its Federal Web Policy. What policy updates should be included in this revision to make Federal websites more user-friendly and pertinent to the needs of the public?
- How can we build on the success of Data.Gov and encourage the use of democratized data to build new consumer-oriented products and services?
Please think about these questions and send your thoughts to email@example.com. We will post a summary of your submissions online in the future. Your ideas will be carefully considered as we produce our National Plan and continue to engage with you over the next month in future posts on this blog.
Aneesh Chopra is the U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Cass Sunstein is the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs