Watching the Open Government Initiative


Sunlight Labs / Open Watcher

Reporters often ask me to say something critical about the Open Government Directive because it helps balance out their story. I’m polite but sometimes think I should tell them to call the Opacity Foundation or “Americans for a Less Effective Government” — some things are just obviously good and the Open Government Initiative falls in that category.

I can’t critique the plan– the plan is solid and good. A plan is also just words on a piece a paper (or PDF file). What we should be worrying about is the sheer ambition of this plan. It’s going to take some serious work to pull off. So we’ve decided to create to track the progress of the major agencies. You can too.

It is a remarkable plan that has all kinds of timelines associated with it. Data Stewards, New Media Directors, CIOs and others have to hatch plans, release datasets, and create brand new [AgencyName].gov/open websites in just 60 days– and while outside of government “60 days to build a website you didn’t have a budget for” is easy– that’s not so easy to do on the inside.

The list here isn’t inclusive of all the agencies that the Open Government Initiative applies to. We only picked the biggest ones. It’ll update every 12 hours, so make sure to check in often. Once an agency puts out its /open page, a check-mark will go by its name.

We’re also here to help. Federal agency data stewards, new media directors and others involved in agency transparency initiatives should read our advice, and if they want– take a look at the scheduled times on that post and have a meeting with us. We’re more than happy to give advice on how to work with developers, how to publish data in a way that both costs you very little money and gets you lots of praise from the community, and how to make your /open pages great.

So if you’re a new media director or other transparency related federal employee– know that we’re actively tracking your progress and actively ready to help out if you need it.