President Obama issues Open Government Directive
An Open Government Directive has been issued by the Executive Office of the President of the United States on December 8, 2009 to direct executive departments and agencies to take specific actions to implement principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration. It is an action oriented and time specific memorandum outlining measures to be taken to create a more open US Government. The Directive states that the principles of transparency, participation and collaboration form the cornerstone of an open government. Clear deadlines are outlined for each agency to comply with the Directive. The four key steps mentioned as important for Open Government are:-
1. Publish Government Information Online 2. Improve the Quality of Government Information 3.Create and Institutionalize a Culture of Open Government 4.Create an Enabling Policy Framework for Open Government
The Directive mandates increased publishing of information online by government in an open format that can be retrieved by commonly used web search applications that is available to the public without restriction of use. It also highlights the new central government website www.Data.gov where each government agency is required to develop an Open Government Webpage to state their compliance with the directive.
A clear theme is transparency in government spending as there is a requirement for the designation of a senior officer to ensure that federal spending information is publicly disseminated through such public venues as www.USAspending.gov or other similar websites. A working group will be formed to be a forum for best practices on transparency and to coordinate all of the new efforts towards transparency especially in relation to the recent banking sector bailout.
The Directive mentions the US Freedom of Information Act and notes that agencies should use modern technology to disseminate useful information rather than waiting for FOI requests; publish an annual Freedom of Information Act Report and set a target of reduction of backlogs of FOI requests by ten percent (10%) per year.
To create an unprecedented and sustained level of openness and accountability, the Directive requires each agency to develop and publish an Open Government Plan that will “describe how it will improve transparency and integrate public participation and collaboration into its activities”. These plans will be made available on www.whitehouse.gov/open. Finally there is a clear emphasis in the Directive on including technology to facilitate open government as this is seen as opening new forms of communication between a government and the people.