On Tuesday, December 8th, 2009 Federal Chief Technology Officer, Aneesh Chopra, and Federal Chief Information Officer, Vivek Kundra, announced the arrival of the Open Government Directive. This was done as a live web chat at 11:00 am Eastern time that was open public. At the end of the announcement, they took time for a few questions and continued the discussion on the directive.
Chopra and Vivek stated that the goals of this administration are to have an open, collaborate, and participatory government. They also stated that the three main themes of the directive are 1) reflect Obama’s key priority (transparency) 2) work together as a team (the officers themselves, the Office of Management and Budget, all stakeholders, such as the state and local government) and 3) focus on results.
The goal has also been to move from a “closed” government to one that is open and transparent. It is grounded in the ability to tap into the ingenuity of the American people. In order to get the best ideas, they believe it is mandatory to tap into all ideas, not just in the government walls. In other words, there is not a federal government solution for each item or problem; by engaging the public there will be better feedback and solutions for all issues.
The directive itself instructs agencies to make their data public in 45 days, receive guidance from OMB in 90 days, and each agency will have an open government plan in 120 days. Each agency will also be responsible for having an open government website. An example of making data public is how the public can view the average delay times of flights.
The agencies will be held accountable for results. They will be responsible for taking full advantage of the technologies we have available today and to collaborate with the public. However, the issues the agencies tackle will be ultimately decided by the agency itself. The agencies will not be told what data to publish, but they are called on to consult the American people in their own focus. Kundra and Chopra previously met individually with cabinet secretaries to learn from them what are the big objectives that a particular agency wants to tackle. Ultimately, each agency will decide their individual high priority areas.
It will later be posted online how the agencies are complying. Another goal of the directive is that ensure that each agency is providing quality data for the public. The goal is to ensure agencies are putting out accurate, timely, and comprehensive data that can be beneficial to the American public. One of the major concerns with the open data has been privacy and security. Chopra and Kundra addressed this issue, and they said that they are not going to compromise national security or privacy. There are proper protections in place and are part of the directive itself. In fact, there is technology that allows this to happen, for example, with healthcare there is the concern of patient privacy and according to Chopra, this is an “important threshold, but not impossible to overcome.”
Both Chopra and Kundra agree that there is an innovative spirit born out of local and state levels and that this is one of the key pillars of public sector work. For example, New York City and San Francisco are cities that have both launched their own versions of data.gov. With the directive in place, Chopra and Kundra believe the government will see savings, see focused collaboration, and a more smoothly run government. They have already seen transparency being put to action. To find out more about the directive or the particulars about each agency, you can download and view it at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2009/12/08/promoting-transparency-government