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Obama’s Open Government Initiative Gets Underway

This morning, U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra and U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra released the Open Government Directive. The open government community has been waiting for almost a year for this memo and it looks like a very promising framework for agencies. Though the memo was released at an event where both a CIO and CTO starred, the Open Government Directive provides a policy roadmap for agencies to increase openness beyond that of just information and technological innovation. The memo requires agencies to make information available, ensure the quality of the information, create a culture of transparency within the agency, and calls for policies to evolve based on emerging technologies.

The Open Government Plan is meant to provide a comprehensive outline for agencies without locking each agency into a plan that doesn’t fit. The document even provides a roadmap for agencies to become more transparent by including deadlines. Indeed, many Cabinet departments have already chosen their flagship commitments to openness, collected on the White House openness site.  The Sunlight Foundation has put together a good outline of all the requirements for agencies, including this flagship initiative requirement.

While there is certainly no shortage of interesting ideas on the site some ideas – like contests and crowdsourcing for ideas to find innovative open government strategies – seem almost too specific, but have been quite successful in the past. Many of the requirements for complying with existing regulations – like records management – now have a mandate for public-facing websites.

Overall, I'm excited to see so many concrete and achievable action items for agencies. While none of the requirements are going to change the world overnight, creating a set of realistic goals is much more useful for agencies than an inspirational memo that commands openness without providing guidance in achieving it.  Hopefully, agencies will use them as jumping off points towards greater transparency, participation, and collaboration. For now, though, it's a waiting game – let's see how agencies write and implement their Open Government Plans.