Intro Government transparency, accountability and efficiency are always important, but look no further than the headlines on the NSA wiretapping scandal and the Obamacare marketplace roll out to know that technology is an growing part of the conversation about good governance Computing has changed the landscape of private and public sectors – the public now expects easy, digital access. This is a challenge for all service providers – including the government
Balancing privacy and access to information is one of the biggest challenges of our times. It will require creative solutions from business and government.
What is open government? It is the radical notion that citizens have the right to access the documents and proceedings of the government to allow for effective public oversight. It is a basic tenant of representative democracy. As society becomes more digital, so does government – and the data that government agencies create and collect Making public data more accessible provides the public with information about product safety, environmental conditions, government spending, and other issues that directly affect their lives.
Isn't government already open? Many would argue, myself included, that it's not open enough Traditional mechanisms for sharing government information – such as scheduled reporting (exp – federal register, congressional quarterly) and Freedom of Information Act requests are out of step with technology and citizen expectations. Government needs reforms to modernize its information practices and reduce the bureaucratic inertia that too often leaves valuable public information locked away.
Open Government is an International movement that's grown with the internet The US is one of 62 countries participating in The Open Government Project, an international platform for reformers committed to making their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens.
Our Federal Government is taking steps towards better governance – and transparency - in the digital age On May 23, 2012, President Obama issued a directive entitled “Building a 21st Century Digital Government.” The Administration launched a comprehensive Digital Government Strategy aimed at delivering better digital services – and more transparent governance - to the American people.
Another objective of the Digital Government Strategy is to “Unlock the power of government data to spur innovation.”
Private sector can turn public data into useful – and marketable – products Example: Weather.com – built on government weather data Other potential data products: Optimizing Census Bureau statistics for marketers Value-added Commerce Department data for exporters Cross-referenced Housing and Urban Development Department information for building contractors, mortgage brokers and insurance adjusters Indexed Federal code for retention schedule management software
Open government sounds good – so how does the government “open up” exactly? The key is Open Data What is open data? In a nutshell, open data is: available, discoverable, and (re)usable The Center for Effective Government identifies 7 Principles of open data – I'll review them quickly because they are so key to understanding how sustainably collected public data is so important to the success of open government:
Open Data are: 1. Public. Agencies must shift their thinking about their data. Agencies must assume that all data they create and gather should be open to the public unless there are specific legal or security restrictions on the information. This is a significant shift for many parts of the government.
Open Data are: 2. Accessible. Open data are made available in convenient, modifiable, and open digital formats that can be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, and searched. To the extent permitted by law, these formats should be non-proprietary, and no restrictions should be placed upon their use.
Open Data are: 3. Described.It's impossible to repurpose data if you don't know what you're looking at. Describing datasets involves the use of robust, granular metadata (i.e., fields or elements that describe data), thorough documentation of data elements, creation of data dictionaries, and, if applicable, additional descriptions of the purpose of the collection, the population of interest, the characteristics of the sample, and the method of data collection.
Open Data are: 4. Reusable. Open data are made available under an open license that places no restrictions on their use. This is entirely feasible because all federal work product is exempt from copyright
Open Data are: 5. Complete. Open data are published in their primary forms, with the finest possible level of granularity that is practicable and permitted by law and other requirements. Access to a report is great, but access to the original dataset allows researchers, watchdogs, and businesses to verify findings, and work with data in new ways.
Open Data are: 6. Timely. Open data are made available as quickly as necessary to preserve the value of the data. Frequency of release should account for key audiences and downstream needs.
Open Data are: 7. Managed Post-Release. A point of contact must be designated to assist with data use and to respond to complaints about adherence to these open data requirements.
Where is the federal government in terms of “opening up”? A variety of websites have launched in recent years, offering greater access to. Data.gov shows significant progress towards more transparent, participatory, and collaborative approach the agency data? Data.gov was launched May 2009, with a staff of 5 – to serve as liasons between agencies and developers looking for data Data.gov staff work with 400 “data stewards” across 175 agencies and subagencies – they have posted 91,071 unique datasets. Some of these datasets have been used by government and non-profits to develop hundreds of mobile and desktop applications.
Agencies have a lot of their plates - what is the driver for government-wide implementation? In May 2013, President Obama signed Executive Order 13642 titled, “Making Machine Readable the New Default for Government information”. The new policy builds off previous data and web policy reforms instituted by the Obama administration. This is a very exciting policy directive, with a painfully dull name – essentially, “Machine readable default” means that creating – and sharing – government data is the new standard opeating procedure for agencies. The executive order sets a number of deliverables for federal agencies
The policy requires 1. Dataset Inventories: by this month (Nov 2013), agencies prepare and make public an inventory of agency datasets. The inventory will indicate whether the data can be made public and whether it is currently available. In addition, the policy requires agencies to consult with the public to determine priorities for expanding and improving available data. Currently, there is a “chicken-and-egg problem that leaves the public unable to provide input on which agency datasets should be released first because the we don't know what datasets agencies possess.
The policy requires 2. a Plan for Openness from the Beginning: Agencies need to plan from the earliest stages of data collection for public use and reuse of data down the road. This means that agencies will need to plan their IT systems with access in mind. This will require significant investment in system re-design for some agencies.
The policy requires 3. Agencies to Integrate Openness into their Activities, such as strategic planning and performance reporting. The policy also addresses potential challenges – for instance, by noting that thoughtful planning for openness may cost more upfront but should be considered a capital investment because it will result in long-term savings to the agency.
The policy provides 4. Support for Implementation: The Machine Readable Default order created Project Open Data to provide a resources to agencies, including checklists, specific guidelines, and ready-to-use software. Also, the inter-agency CIO Council will create a working group to assist and encourage agencies in implementing the new policy. This will ensure that agencies with limited resources or technical know-how will have outside support in complying with these requirements.
I want to share a bit more on Project Open Data, because it's pretty cool. Project Open Data is a public-private partnership: (PeaceCorps for Programmers) It uses Github, a content repository management service that provides version control for collaborative code development and revision It's a web-portal for programmers – some working for government, some volunteering their time and expertise - to develop software tools to implement the Open Government Directive in federal agencies. Project Open Data is a collaborative work — commonly known as “open source” — and is supported by the efforts of an entire community.
Project Open Data may seem like a pie in the sky idea, but this collaborative “crowd source” model of volunteer cod-development has led to many stable, usable, and cost-affective software products – including these. At the onset, the General Services Administration will provide daily oversight and support for Project Open Data, but over time, the GSA hopes that contributors both inside and outside of government will be empowered to take on additional leadership roles.
Moving towards open government is challenging. It requires a shift in the culture and philosophy of agencies, and a re-tooling of IT systems and procedures. It is important to keep in mind that some government limitations are legitimate For example, government oversight and review take time - procedural delays in data for QA, aggregating data to protect private/sensitive personal data, ADA compliance, National Security Council review. These are all things we WANT gov't to do before releasing data! Also, Agencies have shown variable interest in making their data open – for example, the EPA and NARA are very motivated, because data-sharing is consistent with their missions.
I've presented a lot of information. What I would like to you to take away is this: Open data solutions are the best path towards open, accountable government. Proprietary software firms often do not provide open data-friendly solutions Embracing – and cultivating - opensource, non-proprietary software is the key for making- and keeping – government and its data open. These solutions can be MUCH cheaper “out of the box,” but they require dedicated IT staff to support users
What will happen in federal open government initiatives in the future? Stay tuned! The only constant in government is change Amazon and Google have set the bar for customer experience online. The public has high expectations, and poor understanding of “how the sausage is made.” This is governance in a nutshell! If government is going to fulfill citizen expectations, governments will need to employ – and support - more IT and IG professionals I'll close with something close to home - State Reps Mike Duffey and Christina Hagan submitted four bills on October 28th to create a home-grown version of open government data – if these bills pass, we'll have our own DataOhio initiative!
Center for Effective Government (Formerly OMB Watch)
National Archives and Records Administration – Open Government
Project Open Data
Open Government Partnership
Open Government: Collaboration, Transparency, and Participation in Practice
Edited by Daniel Lathrop and Laurel Ruma