Federal agencies have four months to become more open, transparent and cooperative with the public's requests for information, according to new orders issued Tuesday by the White House. The changes deliver a big victory to open government groups have long sought to transform how the government presents and shares information with the general public.
Outlined in a memo by Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, the Open Government Plan states that agencies must publish information online in a timely manner and present their data in a Web-friendly format. Agencies are also encouraged to begin posting certain sorts of information not normally revealed, instead of waiting for freedom of information requests.
Within 45 days, agencies will have to identify three high-value data sets not previously available online or in a downloadable format and register them with the government's Data.gov Web site. Depending on the data selected, the general public could soon have access to details on the sorts of rare insects collected by the Interior Department or highway statistics compiled by the Transportation Department.
Government offices with significant backlogs of FOIA request will be required to reduce them by ten percent each year.
President Obama ordered a top-to-bottom review of the government's transparency and openness efforts during his first hours as president. The orders required agencies to "adopt a presumption in favor" of Freedom of Information Act requests and set in motion a months-long process that led to Tuesday's release.