We’ve come a long way since the President signed the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government on his first full day in office. One highlight of the Open Government Initiative has been the release of agency Open Government Plans. These plans have served as roadmaps for agencies working to expand opportunities for citizen participation, make data more available and transparent, and increase collaborative decision-making.
As the President has emphasized, open government promotes a range of important goals. The first goal is to increase accountability. As Justice Louis Brandeis stated, “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” As government becomes more open, both private and public institutions are more likely to be held accountable. The second goal is to provide people with information that they can readily find and use in their daily lives. Important information is being disclosed to the American public in areas that involve product recalls, infant car seats, automobile safety, health care, energy, nutrition, air pollution, obesity, crime, and much more.
This information is being used by the private sector to create apps and otherwise to inform decisions. (See our recent emphasis on smart disclosure.) The third goal is to use the dispersed knowledge of the American people. As the President has said, “Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge.” Use of that information can improve rules and policies, including those that involve open government itself. (On improving rules and policies, see our recent redesign of regulations.gov.)
Since Open Government plans were released two years ago, a great deal of work has been doneon implementation. And today, agencies are releasing updates of their plans, which include timelines for completing the initiatives in their previous plans, as well as new commitments. We’ve continued to make agency plans a priority, stating in the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan that we would work with agencies as they implement their plans. We invite you to read each plan at www.[name of agency].gov/open.
Over the past three years, agencies have taken significant steps to incorporate the principles of open and accountable government into their daily work. Of course, implementing a plan can be harder than writing it. As a next step, agencies will receive feedback from the public, open government advocates, and their colleagues across government on their revised plans over the coming week. Then, they’ll make revisions based on that feedback.
This Administration has committed itself to being the most transparent and accountable in history. And while this is an ongoing process – a marathon, not a sprint – we are proud of our record, including our most recent accomplishments: smart disclosure initiatives, the redesign of regulations.gov, the launch of ethics.gov, the Open Government Platform, and the signing of the STOCK Act. We are committed to the long-term effort.
Cass R. Sunstein is Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
Chris Vein is Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer