The National Academy of Public Administration, like many of us, is encouraged by the Obama administration’s promise to transform the culture and the day-to-day functioning of the federal government into a much more transparent, participatory, and collaborative reality.
The academy sees three challenges that are inhibiting a truly collaborative federal government: an outdated 20th Century approach to technology where each agency has their own rigid IT environment; an inability to relate data to information, and information to decision making; and a bureaucratic culture where strong incentives exist to protect institutions as opposed to allowing cooperation and innovation.
The NAPA has issued a paper, “Enabling Collaboration: Three Priorities for the New Administration,” which encourages the new administration to meet these challenges head on. They outline a collaborative model that brings citizens’ ideas and priorities into the process of decision making and governing. They suggest the administration create an open technology environment by building a modern communications infrastructure; treat data as a national asset by replacing the focus on controlling information with a focus on sharing it; and foster a culture for collaboration by revising laws, policies and habits that inhibit innovation and collaboration. By focusing on these priorities, the new administration can begin transforming federal agencies so that they are enabling a more open and transparent democracy.
While there’s nothing that’s very new or radical about their suggestions it’s great to see NAPA on board. All of us working for transparency in government will have to work doubly hard to make sure candidate Obama’s promises are fulfilled.