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The Incredible Lightness of Transparency

It’s been 120 days since President Obama signed a memorandum asking for unprecedented openness in government. This day-one transparency memo required that OMB, GSA, and the federal CTO would provide the president with recommendations for an Open Government Directive today. While the day is not yet over, it looks like these open government recommendations, ironically, aren’t being made public. Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story.

Today the White House is launching a new Open Government initiative, and starting by asking the public questions about what we want from an open government using the current “request for comment” process. In addition, citizens are being asked to “brainstorm” ideas via government site called the “Open Government Dialogue.” However, the site sits on a .COM domain and it’s not all that clear it has the imprimatur of the White House, save for a poorly rendered graphic of Presidential Seal. Go figure. While the origin of the site is opaque, the execution of soliciting public feedback via an interactive environment is excellent.

We welcome this request for comments. A week ago, we signed on to a letter asking Beth Noveck, who has been heading up the Open Government Directive process, to take advantage of the public input processes we already use in government every day. We asked for a formal process for public input on these recommendations, and we are pleased that public input is now formally a part of the process of opening the government, both through the traditional notice in the Federal Register and new online tools. While we are discussing the new tools and innovative uses of the Internet that will make government more transparent and participatory, it’s important not to abandon those proven processes that allow public input today.

In addition to the launch of the Open Government Initiative, several new tools, websites, and ideas are being released today, some of which we will be discussing in future blog posts. Here are a few:

    –The White House Open Government Initiative;
    –An exchange on how e-Rulemaking can be improved;
    –The much-anticipated;
    –A rundown of a few of the ways that the Executive Branch is using new media;
    Open Government Innovations gallery, highlighting open government tools