One year ago today, in response to the President’s Open Government Initiative, agencies released their open government plans. It is hard to overstate the importance of these plans because they serve as a roadmap for how agencies intend to embed a culture of open government into how they carry out their day-to-day missions.
Over the past year, agencies have been hard at work implementing these plans and the results have been truly impressive. For example, agencies are:
Releasing data. For years, agencies have collected data in support of their particular missions. But before the ubiquitous use of technology, data often sat in filing cabinets and agency basements. Now, agencies such as the Social Security Administration have data inventory plans for releasing high-value data. As of March 2011, data.gov has more than 379,000 data sets of useful information.
Convening citizen developers. Whether you call them geeks or techies , some of the greatest innovations in government have been the result of citizen developers who simply want to do their part to make our government work better. From the Department of Health and Human Services’ Community Data Health Initiative to “Transportation Camps”—“un-meetings aimed at solving transportation problems—throughout the United States, citizens are using their talents to help make government data that are simply lying around actually work for the American people.
Sponsoring Prizes and Challenges. One of the most important events in Open Government in 2010 was passage of the America COMPETES Act reauthorization, which provided important legal authorities to Federal agencies wishing to sponsor challenges and prizes. The government’s new challenge.gov portal is helping agencies and departments do just that and, as of March 2011, has helped highlight more than 75 prizes and challenges.
Putting Entrepreneurs to Work! Open government has strengthened the United States’ reputation for being the most innovative and entrepreneurial country in the world. Many open government plans have laid out procedures for releasing high-value datasets that can spur new opportunities for economic growth. For example, Brightscope—a provider of 401K-related financial intelligence—has taken the Department of Labor’s data about employee fees being paid for their retirement plans and built a successful information business, giving jobs to more than 30 employees in the last year. Similarly, the Small Business Administration’s revamped Open Government website provides a wealth of new information to help catalyze economic opportunity for small business.
These are just a few of the initiatives that open government plans have helped to launch in the past year. According to an independent assessment, there are more than 350 ongoing open government initiatives operating across the Federal government! And several agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, are continually updating their open government webpages with revised plans, quarterly reports, Data.gov news, and other tools to track progress and receive feedback.
While there is always more to be done, we are proud of the important work that agencies have done and are doing to change the culture of government to one that encourages transparency and facilitates innovation. We are committed to maintaining and building upon this momentum to make our Nation stronger and to make the lives of Americans better.
Chris Vein is the Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer for Government Innovation