New Presidential Memos show a narrow vision for open government

President Obama has done an excellent job moving open government efforts forward, making open government a priority. His initial Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, issued on January 21, 2009, provided guidance and defined open government as being formed by three cornerstones: transparency, participation, and collaboration, giving agencies a clear timetable for delivering their own open government plans.

While this was a great start in 2009 it is not nearly enough in 2011. Unfortunately, two new open government memorandums, released today, show very little change from 2009. If you read the Memoranda on Regulatory Compliance and the Memoranda on Regulatory Flexibility, Small Business, and Job Creation you will find the same basic playbook as that used in 2009 with agencies given 120 days to define their own plans to leverage open data and citizen engagement. The Administration must give agencies requirements that ensure their plans have more meaningful targets such as:

  • Cost savings that result from open government initiatives.
  • Jobs created in the public or private sector as a result of open government initiatives.
  • Quality of Service improvements that result from open government initiatives.

Soft goals like transparency might be enough in positive economic times but today’s economy requires more for legislators and citizens to get excited. Too many of today’s open government efforts are being accomplished as nothing more than checklist item by government employees that have these goals assigned as a small part of their role. Often, the bare minimum is being done and the economic impact of these efforts are unclear.

Do we want open government to be successful and to thrive? We need to start expecting more and we need to start expecting it now.


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