White House: U.S. government is open for download

In a live White House webcast today, federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra discussed the new Open Government Directive released by the Office of Management and Budget. The directive institutionalizes a model of open, participatory and collaborative government, the officials said, by making “high-value” data and other information easily accessible to the American public.

During the webcast, CTO Chopra and CIO Kundra introduced the Open Government Directive (OGD) by outlining the three tenants of open government – transparency, participation and collaboration. CIO Kundra said the OGD is, “changing the default setting of government from secretive, opaque and closed to one that is open, participatory and collaborative.”

CTO Chopra spoke about the two traditional models of government bureaucracy: Command and control – where the federal government dictates to agencies what information to release and how to release it – and a more grass-roots oriented approach – where agencies determine what information they would like to release. With the OGD, Chopra said the president was instituting a new model, focused on collaboration. The president, he said, is not telling agencies exactly what data to publish, but letting them decide what data is most relevant and carries the highest-value.

As outlined in OMB’s memo, high-value information will increase agency accountability and responsiveness, improve public knowledge of agency and its operations, further the core mission of the agency, create economic opportunity, or respond to need and demand as identified through public consultation. Within 45 days, agencies are required to “publish online in an open format at least three high-value sets and register those data sets via Data.gov,” which are not currently available.

Another mandate outlined by OGD is that each federal agency appoint a top-level official to design and implement their open government plan, which is due to OMB within 120 days. Other deadlines include:

  • Within 45 days, the Deputy Director for Management at OMB, the Federal Chief Information Officer, and the Federal Chief Technology Officer will establish a working group that focuses on transparency, accountability, participation, and collaboration within the Federal Government.
  • A dashboard, similar to the Federal IT Dashboard, which will monitor each agency’s progress within 60 days.
  • Within 60 days, a dedicated agency webpage, located at http://www.[agency].gov/open to serve as the gateway for agency activities related to the Open Government Directive and shall maintain and update that webpage in a timely fashion.
  • Within 120 days, each agency shall develop and publish on its Open Government Webpage an Open Government Plan that will describe how it will improve transparency and integrate public participation and collaboration into its activities.

Agencies will also be responsible for identifying polices to find innovative or cost-effective solutions to improving open government, similar to the President’s SAVE Award.

“The best ideas don’t live within the four walls of Washington,” CIO Kundra said. “We need to leverage the new technological tools and values [of open government] to better execute policies.”

“At a high level, OGD will require agencies to show how they are complying with the directive – making sure information is accurate, timely and comprehensive – and [the dashboard] will show the status of how agencies are performing against ODG,” CTO Chopra said. Echoing those comments, CIO Kundra indicated that agencies will be required to adhere to benchmarks, or risk the kind of public scrutiny lodged against the Veterans Administration when the Federal IT Dashboard found nearly 45 programs were behind schedule or over budget.

To read the OMB memo and Open Government Directive, click here.

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