Open Government and Data: Beyond Our Nation’s Borders

Governments around the world are utilizing big data analytics more and more. While data can make governments run more efficiently and aid policy decisions, it also raises many concerns. Citizens and civil society groups advocate for openness, making data available and accessible to all.

In line with these calls to action, President Obama made a commitment to open government initiatives in 2009 with the release of his Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government. “Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government,” the President said. The memorandum outlines three broad directives for the federal government:

  • Government should be transparent.
  • Government should be participatory.
  • Government should be collaborative.

The U.S. Government’s (USG) transparency efforts extend beyond the nation’s borders as well. In 2011 the USG joined the Open Government Partnership (OPG), “a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.”

The OGP has grown over the past three and a half years. What began with eight initial signatories (Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States) is now an initiative of nearly 60 nations.

These nations are working “to make government more transparent and more accessible, to provide people with information that they can use in their daily lives, to solicit public participation in government decision-making, and to collaborate with all sectors of the economy on new and innovative solutions,” said OGP.

As a part of their commitment to the OGP, the USG published their first National Action Plan (NAP) in 2011. With an overall strategy to “open government,” the NAP directives are broken down into the following three policy categories: increase public integrity, manage public resources more effectively and improve public services.

Each category includes a set of proactive steps and best practices the USG is undertaking to guarantee quality governance and proper transparency. One of which is a pledge to develop standard reporting requirements for foreign assistance and implement the requirements across all USG agencies. This is an important step, as it is essential to create reporting standards to ensure effective and efficient program management.

Other NAP goals include increasing public participation in government, declassifying national security information, reforming government websites and improving the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) administration. Read the entire plan here.

This post is the introduction to a series on open government and open data initiatives around the globe, and how our nation is working to keep its commitments to international transparency standards. Keep an eye out for subsequent posts!

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