Editors note: The Obama Administration made good on its promise of an open government yesterday by releasing a directive to all federal agencies requiring them, essentially, to adapt to a culture of transparency instead of secrecy. It imposes a number of deadlines for agencies to:
- Publish online high-value data sets (within 45 days)
- Create an Open Government page on each agency’s web site (within 60 days)
- Publish an Open Government Plan addressing transparency, participation, and collaboration (within 120 days)
And it will create a working group on best practices and an Open Government Dashboard to keep track of progress of all agencies. There’s lots more in the directive (you can read the full text here http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/assets/memoranda_2010/m10-06.pdf) addressing the culture of government and pushing it towards openness.
I think it is by far the most ambitious and far-reaching effort by any White House to push open government that I have seen in my 28 years in Washington observing information access fights (as a journalist, as a plaintiff in an FOIA lawsuit, as House staffer, and as a consultant). Some, like the Sunlight Foundation and OMB Watch, have already weighed in praising the effort. Others, like Andrea DiMaio, are disappointed because while it’s heavy on disclosure, it’s (in his opinion) light on collaboration or real citizen participation initiatives.
In either case, it is a groundbreaking first step, and one that will hopefully transcend the Obama Administration and become the permanent default position of government agencies.
What is surprising is the lack of respect that our major dailies have paid it. The Washington Post delegated the story to a small write-up at the bottom of a very inside page, the Wall Street Journal opted not to cover it in its print edition, and the New York Times used an AP story on its website. Maybe they see that open government means less influence for them, or maybe they don’t understand the significance—but I think they have missed the boat on this one.
TechView will keep a close eye on the open government developments, and welcomes any commentary from our readers.