On January 21, 2009, as one of his first acts as President, President Obama released his Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government. The memorandum instructed that government should be transparent, government should be participatory, government should be collaborative. On December 8, 2009, Peter Orzag, the head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued the Open Government Directive (PDF) establishing deadlines for application of those three principles of open government -- readers will remember that Federal CIOs were only lukewarm about the administration's transparency goals. The memorandum requires executive departments and agencies to take the following steps toward the goal of creating a more open government:
- Publish Government Information Online
- Improve the Quality of Government Information
- Create and Institutionalize a Culture of Open Government
- Create an Enabling Policy Framework for Open Government
A group of non-profit govt transparency organizations -- including OpenTheGovernment, Sunlight Foundation, American Library Association, American Association of Law Libraries, Center for Democracy and Technology and several other groups -- got together to measure how federal agencies were doing to meet the open government directive. They evaluated federal agencies based on a set of criteria (here's their methodology for how the scores were derived) and found that NASA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency scored highest while Department of Treasury, Department of Defense, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Department of Energy, and the Department of Justice ranked last in terms of meeting the goals of the open government initiative. Those interested should check back at the site as the organizations will continue to evaluate agencies' improvements over the next year. By the way, here's more on the Mendoza Line, the baseball measurement for threshold of incompetence.
We commend the President for his commitment to openness and for providing detailed elements in the OGD that can be used to hold federal agencies accountable. Many of the federal agencies have approached implementation of the OGD requirements with energy and enthusiasm and some have taken innovative steps in their plans. If implemented with spirit, vigor, and innovation, the Open Government Plans can serve as a vehicle for fundamentally changing the way the federal government interacts with the public. This, in turn, may prove to be a catalyst for shifting public trust in government.
At the same time, many of the agency plans as unveiled on April 7 have a long way to go to create this transformational potential. As this audit demonstrates, there is wide variation in the agency plans. Some are exceptional; others are quite weak. Most are somewhere in between. Many of the plans that currently do not meet the minimal requirements identified in the OGD can do so with only modest improvements, such as providing more specificity on deadlines or identifying where certain items mentioned in the plans can be found. An overview of what we found is below.
The Sunlight Foundation is starting an experiment that they are calling "the day in transparency." Every day, they will post a selection of transparency-related news stories, upcoming hearings on the hill, and related legislation introduced in Congress.
They are currently posting the stories at http://www.theopenhouseproject.com/, but may move these announcements to their own blog home soon.
- The Day in Transparency 4/27/2010 by Eric Naing.
[UPDATE 9/23/11: It's come to our attention that scribd, the site that hosts the document below, does not make it easy for users to download. In some instances it appears as if the user has to subscribe to scribd before they can download. So I've attached a copy of the document below for your free downloading pleasure. JRJ]
In early April, Michael Keller, Stanford University Librarian and my boss, had a phone conversation with Beth Simone Noveck, US deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government leading President Obama's Open Government Initiative. Noveck requested a short report outlining how the digital FDLP would work.
Below is that report outlining a distributed ecosystem, or publications.gov, that "would incorporate collaborative cataloging/metadata creation, as well as shared or Peer-to-Peer (P2P) technical infrastructure in which data and technological redundancy and collective and proactive action reign." As many of you already know, some of the pieces for a digital FDLP ecosystem are already in place. However, as our recent post, "The State of FDsys and the Future of the FDLP", showed, some of those critical pieces are on shaky ground to say the least.
The report was forwarded to Bob Tapella and Mike Wash at GPO as well as Aneesh Chopra, Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Vivek Kundra, Chief Information Officer (CIO), and US Archivist David Ferriero.
FDLP issues are now front and center to the movers and shakers in the Obama administration. But we'll need more libraries and librarians willing to step up and pitch in to make the digital FDLP ecosystem a reality.
Digital FDLP Ecosystem
Tuesday (December 8th), the White House released the Open Government Directive. For more information, view the announcement here:
Yay for transparency...because government information needs to be free!
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has posted a first draft of their eGovernment Working Group's guidelines for governments putting data on the Web, Publishing Open Government Data. (And hey! It's not in PDF format.)
The W3C posted this notice on their website on September 9:
Today, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) announces a draft work plan for the eGovernment Interest Group, whose mission is to document, advocate, coordinate and communicate best practices, solutions and approaches to improve the interface between citizens and government through effective use of Web standards. The draft charter, in review by the W3C community until the end of September, focuses on two topics: Open Government Data (OGD), and Education and Outreach. In line with its anticipated focus on Open Government Data, the group also announces today a first draft of Publishing Open Government Data, which provides step-by-step guidelines for putting government data on the Web. Sharing data according to these guidelines enables greater transparency; delivers more efficient public services; and encourages greater public and commercial use and re-use of government information. Learn more about the W3C eGovernment Activity.
[hat tip DB/eCitizen]
Carl Malamud (from public.resource.org) gave what was generally agreed was a rousing talk at Gov2.0 Summit this morning. The talk was entitled "By the people..." Please go to his site to access the pamphlet he created (and order it for your library!) and a live pre-recording of the address. I promise it'll be worth it!
If you are going to the ALA Annual 2009 Conference in Chicago next week, please come to the "ALA Unconference" where I will be leading a broad discussion on Friday, July 10th from 11:10-12:00 on the library's role in current & emerging trends of civic engagement, transparency, preservation and access to Government information. The supporting materials and presentation will be linked in the Unconference wiki.
Also, please come to the LITA BIGWIG Social Software Showcase to discuss and learn about Government Information Mashups! I will be presenting on this topic and would love to have you help out and/or join in on the conversation! The presentation will be posted on their website but the face to face portion of the BIGWIG Showcase presentations will take place Monday, July 13th from 10:30am - 12:30pm in the McCormick Convention Center West, Room W-184.
The White House Blog has a nice summary of Open Government Brainstorm sponsored by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA). It says the brainstorm generated more than 1000 ideas.
- Wrap-Up of the Open Government Brainstorming: Transparency, White House Blog, June 2, 2009.
A few items of interest to whet your appetite:
- Convert Depository Libraries around the country into Regional Data Centers
- Use Data.gov as a repository of newly declassified information
- Make contributed data subject to a waiver of copyright and database rights
- Government should create permalinks on the paragraph level to make documents easier to cite
- Digitize all government research reports and make them available free
The 10th edition of the “Federal Open Government Guide” has been published by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP). The guide helps citizens to better understand and use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This new edition covers laws such as the Government in the Sunshine Act (GSA), the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), and the Privacy Act.
You can buy a copy from the RCFP for $10 or you can use the free online version. It includes an automated FOIA letter generator that creates requests and appeals.
Tip o' the hat to the OMB Watch Blog for the heads up.
The Sunlight Foundation has a new website called OOGL: Open Our Government List, for you to vote and submit ideas for what the Open Government Directive should address.
Shortly after President Obama's inauguration, he issued a memo on transparency directing his top officials to develop plans for an Open Government Directive to promote transparency, participation, and collaboration. The Sunlight Foundation has created this page in order to add a public element to the crafting of this Open Government Directive that is itself transparent, participatory, and collaborative.
So far, the highest vote goes to Ethics Information, APIs & Bulk Data Access, and Procedural Information.
Spread the word and vote!