Alexander B. Howard

Transparency, participation and collaboration are laudable goals. Australia’s Kate Lundy recently re-emphasized citizen-centric services, democratising data and participatory government in that country’s efforts.

The top priorities I’m hearing from citizens are jobs and the economy, followed by rising energy prices. Systemically, there are huge challenges around healthcare, education, aging transportation infrastructure and the long war overseas. Given the gravity of the moment — and the certainty that every aspect of the administration’s policies will be under scrutiny as the 2012 election season draws closer — the question of whether open government can be leveraged to address those challenges will be asked again and again.

If transparency enables Congress and the chief performance officer to collaborate in identifying duplicative programs and wasteful spending, that’s important. If health data and open source approaches to standards can help improve service delivery, that’s important as well. The success of HHS in those area shouln’t be overlooked. Fundamentally, implementation of these policies will need to make government more efficient, smarter or more agile.

At the federal level, the participatory aspect of open government will only work if the public is involved in co-creation. If whatever “ExpertNet” means is stood up, that will be even more so. That also means that it’s likely going to take more than Vein, Chopra, Kundra or Zientz working in the trenches and speaking at conferences to catalyze citizen engagement. At some point, their boss is likely going to have to use the bully pulpit of the presidency to ask the American people to get involved in open government efforts, provide them with specific calls to action and highlight both the successes and lessons learned from the past two years.