On his very first day in office, President Obama signed a memorandum to all federal agencies directing them to break down barriers to transparency, participation, and collaboration between the federal government and the people it is to serve.
As an example of the steps taken in response, the White House, for the first time ever, now publishes the names of everyone who visits. We are also publishing online never-before-available data about federal spending and research. At Data.gov, for instance, what started as 47 data sets from a small group of federal agencies has grown into more than 118,000 today – with thousands more ready to be released starting this week. And in March, the Attorney General published updated FOIA guidelines, establishing a presumption in favor of voluntary disclosure of government information – an important step toward enabling the American people to see how their government works for them. There have been other advancements, from providing online access to White House staff financial reports and salaries, adopting a tough new state secrets policy, reversing an executive order that previously limited access to presidential records, and web-casting White House meetings and conferences.
By themselves, however, these steps do not provide the transformation in the philosophy of governing that the President wants. They are improvements over past practice, to be sure, and valuable ones. But more needs to be done.
That is why, at the end of May, the Administration launched the Open Government Initiative (OGI). This unique outreach effort, led by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, sparked a never-before-seen collaboration between the public and the government. We asked questions, and you provided answers. We responded, and you offered alternatives. By the end of the three-month outreach period, tens of thousands of Americans participated, and thousands of ideas were generated.
Since the OGI outreach ended, we’ve been pouring over the suggestions. We’ve talked with outside experts. We’ve evaluated and re-evaluated the steps we want to implement government-wide. And as a result, today we are releasing two documents:
The directive, sent to the head of every federal department and agency today, instructs the agencies to take specific actions to open their operations to the public. The three principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration are at the heart of this directive. Transparency promotes accountability. Participation allows members of the public to contribute ideas and expertise to government initiatives. Collaboration improves the effectiveness of government by encouraging partnerships and cooperation within the federal government, across levels of government, and between the government and private institutions.
Peter Orszag is the director of the Office of Management and Budget