Open Government Initiative Blog

  • 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.

  • 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,  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.”

  • Spurring International Momentum for Open Government

    Today, 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.  In the spirit of multi-stakeholder collaboration, this initiative is governed by a steering committee that includes governments and civil society groups from around the world. 

    This effort builds directly on steps President Obama has taken since the first day of his Administration to strengthen democracy and promote a more efficient and effective government through greater openness. 

    Since the release of the President’s Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, Federal agencies have done much 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.  We have launched websites such as,, and to ensure the effective use of taxpayer dollars; released useful data through the centralized portal,; and opened new opportunities for the public to engage in solving our most pressing problems through and online communities focused on health, energy, and the law.

    The Open Government Partnership seeks to galvanize international momentum on issues of open government.  President Obama spoke about the importance of open government at the UN General Assembly in 2010, and challenged leaders to return with specific commitments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.  This is a new vehicle for supporting governments as they take these important steps.

    Our action plan for the Open Government Partnership will continue and build upon the Open Government efforts first launched by the President’s Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, and we look forward to your input and ideas as we develop our action plan going forward.

    Aneesh Chopra is the U.S. Chief Technology Officer

    Cass Sunstein is Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

  • COMPETES Act Births Innovation Initiative for Health IT

    Today, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) announced the Investing in Innovations (i2) initiative – an exciting new $5 million program to spur health IT innovations through prizes, challenges, and other mechanisms to improve the health care of all Americans. 

    The core of this bold initiative will be a series of prize competitions – up to 15 each year – that will accelerate innovation and adoption of health IT for improved clinical outcomes and efficient care delivery. For example, a prize competition under i2 might challenge software developers to build new tools for the seamless exchange of health information among hospitals, clinics, and physicians with tailored privacy settings or to create new “blue button” apps that enable patients to download and reuse their clinical information.

    This bold initiative leverages the new prize authority in the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 to execute on the President’s call for agencies to increase their use of prizes and challenges to spur innovation and solve tough problems.  The ONC Investing in Innovations initiative is a harbinger of a new paradigm in which – under the America COMPETES Act – prize competitions become a strategic tool in every agency’s innovation portfolio.

    The i2 initiative builds on the success of prize competitions under the Department of Health and Human Services Community Health Data Initiative and the SMART Apps for Health challenge that closed last week.  SMART (Substitutable Medical Apps, Reusable Technologies) is one of several research projects supported by ONC through their SHARP R&D initiative and is focused on the notion that an open platform could transform the health IT market by reducing the distribution costs for entrepreneurs.

    With just a modest $5,000 prize and a 90-day competition, the SMART Apps for Health challenge attracted over 300 supporters and 15 quality submissions, garnered a wide level of attention,and attracted a wide field of innovators, with what promises to be a significant catalyst for spurring a breakthrough, innovative health IT platform.  Contestants ranged from established companies to clinical researchers, to individual innovators. The creative submissions included specialized tools that enable clinical decision support through diagnostic applications, clinical dashboards that link EMRs with immunization registry and syndromic surveillance data, and multi-use applications that support clinical workflow and medical record annotation.

    A star panel of judges is currently in a spirited debate as to which of the compelling submissions will go home with the prize. But on June 22nd, I’m convinced the real winners will be the care delivery system as the stories of what is possible attract new talent and ideas to bear on the future of health IT.  We look forward to engaging this fast-growing community through the Investing in Innovation initiative in the months to come.

    Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy