Is Open Government’s Death Imminent?

Home Forums Technology Is Open Government’s Death Imminent?

This topic contains 26 replies, has 24 voices, and was last updated by  Sid Burgess 9 years, 5 months ago.

  • Author
  • #133711

    Well, it looks like we have a debate brewing in the Open Government community.

    First, the Washington Post‘s Vivek Wadhwa proclaimed “The death of open government” with the departure of Federal CIO Vivek Kundra. He suggests that:

    “…with Kundra gone, I am not optimistic about the program. Whenever a program loses its key evangelist, it normally dies. The Open Government Initiative is likely to suffer a slow, inevitable death.”

    In response, Luke Fretwell of GovFresh, issued an impassioned rebuke and appeal to both Vivek and other members of the open government movement, maintaining that:

    “Open government won’t die a slow death because one of its biggest champions leaves public service. Open government won’t die a slow death because it’s underfunded. Open government will die a slow death if we, as citizens inside and outside government, don’t engage, collaborate, participate and do something about it.

    UPDATE 6/23: David Forbes has jumped into the fray with a blog post in which he says “Open government can survive a resignation.” A key excerpt:

    “Budget cuts, setbacks and resignations are all part of politics. Every cause suffers them, and the ones that endure do so because they can take the damage and keep on going. The ability to do so depends not on a single person but on the depth of support and the strength of advocates to carry on.”

    It’s a great debate and one worth discussing…so I present the question to you:

    Will Kundra’s departure create a significant decline – or even imminent death – for Open Government?

  • #133763

    Sid Burgess

    Open Government is alive and well in Oklahoma. Oh, and who is Vivek again? 😉

  • #133761

    Ari Herzog

    (Open) Government is very much alive outside of Capitol Hill. ‘Nuff said.

  • #133759

    Dustin Haisler

    The open government movement is very much like an organism. It will change and adapt to new challenges, and continue to progress forward as a collective movement for the greater good.

  • #133757

    3 votes for “yes” from the local government folks!

    Hmm…is there a sense of doom from Federal?

  • #133755

    Elliot Volkman

    So far the media is saying there is some doom attached to it, but it’s up to the people to decide. One many, and one budget shouldn’t shut down a movement. If anything this will just redirect or focus it in another way.

  • #133753

    Robert Eckhardt

    I think this is part of the ebb and flow that is inevitable with change.

    The open government movement isn’t beast with a head so the removal of a single individual can’t kill it.

  • #133751

    Sterling Whitehead

    Initiatives die once the originator leaves unless the initiative is institutionalized. I don’t know if it has been institutionalized across the federal government yet. There are almost without a doubt pockets of instiutionalized open gov in the federal gov. Still, open gov is alive outside DC and DC is not the end-all, be-all.

  • #133749

    David Dejewski

    I don’t think open government ever made it into the DoD. The DoD is huge and I have seen some sparks and good initiatives get started, but I’ve not seen anything take root. I could be proven wrong, and I hope I am, but it has taken extraordinary effort just to get information flowing within a single agency. Flowing information outside the agency or sharing information from one Service to another still appears to be regarded as a violation of cultural protocol. I am a violator.

    I literally got a phone call at home from someone in my agency after posting something on GovLoop. A few words I wrote got picked up by Government Computer News (GCN). I was asked by the person on the phone if GCN had asked me for my permission before quoting me. I reported accurately that they had not asked me for my permission or discussed the article with me. They thanked me, hung up the phone, and the articles containing my quotes disappeared from GCN shortly thereafter. I was not quoted by them again. I was, however, later quoted by the New York Times, CIO magazine, and magazines in the UK and Canada. Different, and I thought a lot more controversial subjects, but no one seemed to notice or care. LOL!

    What was quoted in GCN was my opinion about telework. I made some benign comment about how it had helped us stay on track during the snow storm of 2010. GCN liked what I had said or the way I said it and used the quote. Apparently, I wasn’t allowed to have an opinion about telework at the time. LOL

    Telework is a phenomenal aid to the workforce if applied correctly, BTW.
    If you’re from GCN, you saw nothing.

  • #133747

    Uh, guys?

    Where you not paying attention when I said Chicago was going to be the next big #OpenGov city?

    Helloooooo <- New stuff being added all….the….time….

    Follow @chicagoCTO and @chicagoCDO as they release all kinds of data.

    Hell, we even got our first app off the data. And it’s not even been that long!

    OpenGov is not dead or dying

  • #133745

    David Dejewski

    Wow, Chris. Ive looked at your site. What a great mash up!

  • #133743

    Terri Jones

    I think that those of us who worked in the public sector have always kept initiatives going long after the attention spans of elected officials have moved on. So, although I think Vivek’s departure is a blow, it is in our hands to learn from that moment and keep it going. I think the point of a combination of elected officials and public servants in government is that the public servants can keep a steady, forward moving course despite appointments and changes at the top. I survived multiple governors, but I can’t say that I let important initiatives drop because of a change of political party. I do worry about staff reductions and whether we have the resources to keep this moving given all of our responsibilities though!

  • #133741

    Jon Lee

    In Texas, we just passed a bill requiring agencies to post high value data sets.

    However, there are ways for agencies to weasel out of this requirement so it’ll take more than just legislation to keep the movement alive.

  • #133739

    Doniele Ayres

    Open Government is not dying. What’s more, it is not data only! One more thing, if you look at thing like the plain writing act, public comment and participation are a major part of the requirment. Open Government is not another initiative, it is part of the way we work every day.

  • #133737

    Adam Arthur

    Kundra’s influence and passion was significant, but it will not be the end for Open Government. Open Government is more of a principal now – a way to do business between citizens and their representatives. I believe the people have had a real taste of transparency and they won’t settle for anything less at this point.

    The name “Open Government” may change, but the concept of free flowing information between the people and their representatives is way to awesome to pull back now. I believe this is what our founders had in mind – and we have finally got back to what they had intended.

  • #133735

    I have been reflecting on this conversation for awhile. A couple of things.

    1) It’s nice to see so many people saying “Hell no it’s not dead.” AGREE!

    2) Agree with the sentiment that OG lives on in the form of people who deeply believe and have the will and ability to carry it out.

    3) It’s not just Gen Xers, Yers, whatever – the “next generation” that believes in OG. I would say that the desire is nearly universal in government to be transparent, responsive, and forward-thinking. The problem is that lots of things have gotten in the way.

    4) From a branding perspective, OG has failed so far because it’s been perceived as extremist by those who are entrenched in government service. Analogy: The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was branded a moderate and Malcolm X an extremist. (I am not a scholar of the civil rights movement and am not trying to argue whether these perceptions were true or not.) It was Dr. King who had more influence and who turned the concept of racial equality into a given in this country when it had been seen as an aberration beforehand.

    The situation is similar with the dynamics of the feminist movement. You really need both: The “radical fringe” gets in your face and forces the conversation and then the “moderate establishment” turns the radical into something that the mainstream can accept.

    Same with the Tea Party’s influence. Same with rap music.

    And I think we will see the same thing with the educational system as well – with people like Michelle Rhee taking a hit for insisting that the system self-correct in a fairly radical way, and then the rest of us following in a more watered-down manner.

    If you think about it this is the curve of technology acceptance as well – early adopters/”beta testing” and eventually the mainstream turns the item into a “no-brainer”. Example: In a few years few will be reading paper books anymore as e-readers become the norm.

    5) If we are going to make OG go mainstream I think we need representatives who mirror the image of the quiet, long-serving federal civil servants who have credibility in the established order of things and who know how to get things done amidst the maze that is sometimes difficult for outsiders or newcomers to navigate.

    I also want to say that GovLoop itself is a pioneering phenomenon that itself has helped move OG forward by providing a platform where anyone interested in government can have a voice. This itself is not often recognized.

    Great discussion.

  • #133733

    Brett Husbands

    Open Government survived through the end of the world, a resignation, and I hope it also survives the incumbent zombie apocalypse.

    At the municipal level interest seems to be building, as it also does overseas. I think the imagination has been sparked, it just takes a while to turn that into solid implemented solutions.

  • #133731

    Ken Eisman

    If open government relied on the efforts of one man, it was never viable to begin with!

  • #133729

    Rex Castle

    Doesn’t something dying imply life? I’m not saying there has not been progress, but from sort of the outside looking in I still struggle to find information in a useable form to produce mashable results. “Open Government” is not a program of the month, or a system, or a pronouncement by President Obama–Open Government is a right of the people. We pay for it, and all the information government generates, after all. If the progress that has been made stops, the fault will lie, as it always does, with us…We the people.

  • #133727

    Daniel Honker

    There seems to be a common thread here that the opengov movement is a network, not a hierarchy with a head. Thus, Kundra’s resignation doesn’t necessarily mean all that much. I’d agree — opengov is essentially about changing the way government works, and this change is most profound at the cultural level. So it depends on managers‘ adoption of opengov and their ability to lead teams to be more collaborative and open. All the policy changes and new tech deployments don’t mean a thing if the managers aren’t behind them.

    I think opengov will continue to push forward in those areas where its value has been made clear to a program’s mission, and where line managers support it, beyond simple compliance. However, Kundra’s resignation could mean that those areas that haven’t yet seen the light (at least at the federal level) won’t see the light.

  • #133725

    Steven Clift

    The movement to promote open government leveraging technology has been around for decades. Heck, I helped draft a “Digital Democracy” report for the State of Minnesota way back in 1996.

    While the U.S. Federal government took a big profile leap forward with various White House moves, etc., the real work of open government is a one office, one agency at a time need. The shifts in policy have been helpful, but let’s be honest with ourselves our collective progress is still very incremental.

    The seeds have been planted, but now is the time to push for distributed open government and look to see that each agencies mega IT budget integrates access and openness at its core rather than be viewed as an add-on.

  • #133723

    Tracy Kerchkof


  • #133721

    Scott Thomas

    ”…Never mind that Kundra’s programs had already saved taxpayers $3 billion over the past two years.”

    yikes! great article by washington post.

  • #133719


    After all, George W’s Administration’s open government and transparency achivements didn’t die but were advanced and improved by some in this Administration, so open government isn’t likely to die now.

  • #133717

    David Dejewski

    It’ll take a few retirements, some interactive energy and a clear display of value to make this work. Open Government still has a long way to go.

  • #133715

    Peter Sperry

    Open government started when Hamurrabi had his code carved in stone so both his subjects and his officials could reference a common set of rules rather than be governed by the whim of the beauracrat. It has come a long way in 5000 years and is not going to die because one man leaves an administration. Comment periods for Federal regulations, FOIA, Open meetings, federal depository libraries, publication of government documents, web posting of budgets etc were all intiatied long before Kundra and will survive long after he is gone. Open governement is more than just throwing some data dumps on the web.

  • #133713

    Alex Moll

    Yes, open government is alive at the federal level: EPA is one. Hopefully, we’ll keep progressing–onward and upward! &

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.