When President Obama began this Administration with an unprecedented showing of support for building a more open and transparent government, open government advocates cheered this news. It catalyzed a movement that—more than seven years later—continues to grow stronger.
Open government is nothing new—President James Madison was championing the public’s right to information more than 200 years ago. And the United States just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on July 4 with President Obama signing FOIA amendments into law and announcing new efforts to ensure transparency and openness in government the week before.
But still, the January 20, 2009 Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government gave new life to the open government movement, and has been a conduit to the agencies and civil society organizations working to advance these efforts. That memo led to the December 2009 Open Government Directive which organized agencies to begin concerted efforts toward greater transparency through biennial Open Government Plans, open data work, and open innovation activities like prizes and challenges.
As agencies prepare to update their plans for 2016, the Office of Management and Budget and Office of Science and Technology Policy are sharing new guidance today to encourage agencies to make this fourth round of plans the most expansive and strongest yet. The guidance is updated to include efforts that are new since 2014, such as implementation of the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act, and work that has become more robust in the last couple of years, including access to scientific data and publications.
Agencies have been working hard to deliver against the directive to build a more transparent, participatory, and collaborative government. Just last month, the Internal Revenue Service began making available the electronically filed public tax data from tax-exempt organizations, allowing the public to better see information about the mission, programs, and finances of nonprofit and charitable organizations. And in an effort to engage in more open and participatory policymaking, the Office of Management and Budget is currently working through more than 2,000 comments from the public on a draft Federal Source Code Policy, which itself will be a first-of-its-kind effort and serves as a model for public participation as more government agencies release draft policies for open, widespread public comment.
Government teams are working to capture these great examples as we look back over the past seven-plus years of work that the open government community of practice has engaged in. With about 100 Federal departments and agencies and hundreds of civil society groups, academics, students, industry leaders, and members of the public pushing this work forward, we all have a lot to be proud of.
If you have open government success stories we should be tracking, share your suggestions through the Open Government discussion group, via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet them and tag @OpenGov. And if you have ideas that agencies should include in their Open Government Plans, feel free to contact agencies directly or share them through these same avenues.
There is, of course, more ground to cover and we would love to hear your suggestions of what else can be done. We look forward to continuing to build a more open and transparent government together.
Cori Zarek is a Deputy Chief Technology Officer in the Office of Science and Technology Policy.