Since his first full day in office, President Obama has prioritized making government more open and accountable and has taken substantial steps to increase citizen participation, collaboration, and transparency in government. Today, the Obama Administration released the second U.S. Open Government National Action Plan, announcing 23 new or expanded open-government commitments that will advance these efforts even further.
In September 2010, President Obama challenged members of the United Nations General Assembly to work together to make all governments more open and accountable to their people. To meet that challenge, in July 2011, President Obama joined the leaders of seven other nations in announcing the launch of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) – a global effort to encourage transparent, effective, and accountable governance. In two short years, the OGP has grown from eight to more than 60 member-nations that have collectively made more than 1,000 commitments to improve the governance of more than two billion people around the globe.
Then, in September 2011, the United States released its first Open Government National Action Plan, setting a series of ambitious goals to create a more open government. The United States has continued to implement and improve upon the open-government commitments set forth in the first Plan, along with many more efforts underway across government, including implementing individual Federal agency Open Government Plans. The second Plan builds on these efforts, in part through a series of key commitments highlighted in a preview report issued by the White House in October 2013, in conjunction with the Open Government Partnership Annual Summit in London.
Among the highlights of the second National Action Plan:
“We the People”: The White House will introduce new improvements to the We the People online petitions platform aimed at making it easier to collect and submit signatures and increase public participation in using this platform. Improvements will enable the public to perform data analysis on the signatures and petitions submitted to We the People, as well as include a more streamlined process for signing petitions and a new Application Programming Interface (API) that will allow third-parties to collect and submit signatures from their own websites.
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Modernization: The FOIA encourages accountability through transparency and represents an unwavering national commitment to open government principles. Improving FOIA administration is one of the most effective ways to make the U.S. Government more open and accountable. Today, we announced five commitments to further modernize FOIA processes, including launching a consolidated online FOIA service to improve customers’ experience, creating and making training resources available to FOIA professionals and other Federal employees, and developing common FOIA standards for agencies across government.
The Global Initiative on Fiscal Transparency (GIFT): The United States will join GIFT, an international network of governments and non-government organizations aimed at enhancing financial transparency, accountability, and stakeholder engagement. The U.S. Government will actively participate in the GIFT Working Group and seek opportunities to collaborate with stakeholders and champion greater fiscal openness and transparency in domestic and global spending.
Open Data to the Public: Over the past few years, government data has been used by journalists to uncover variations in hospital billings, by citizens to learn more about the social services provided by charities in their communities, and by entrepreneurs building new software tools to help farmers plan and manage their crops. Building on the U.S. Government’s ongoing open data efforts, new commitments will make government data even more accessible and useful for the public, including by reforming how Federal agencies manage government data as a strategic asset, launching a new version of Data.gov to make it even easier to discover, understand, and use open government data, and expanding access to agriculture and nutrition data to help farmers and communities.
Participatory Budgeting: The United States will promote community-led participatory budgeting as a tool for enabling citizens to play a role in identifying, discussing, and prioritizing certain local public spending projects, and for giving citizens a voice in how taxpayer dollars are spent in their communities. This commitment will include steps by the U.S. Government to help raise awareness of the fact that participatory budgeting may be used for certain eligible Federal community development grant programs.
Other initiatives launched or expanded today include: increasing open innovation by encouraging expanded use of challenges, incentive prizes, citizen science, and crowdsourcing to harness American ingenuity, as well as modernizing the management of government records by leveraging technology to make records less burdensome to manage and easier to use and share. There are many other exciting open-government initiatives described in the second Plan — and you can view them all here.
This second National Action Plan is another opportunity to set concrete and measurable goals for achieving a more transparent, participatory, and collaborative government. We look forward to working alongside civil society to carry out these commitments and continue identifying new ways to open our government in the future.