OGD /Open Pages Come to Life

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Meeting or surpassing the White House’s deadline, the 20 agencies we monitored launched their /open pages by this past Saturday in accordance with the Open Government Directive. (See Sunlight Lab’s /open page tracker; also ProPublica’s transparency tracker).

The White House also revealed its Open Government Dashboard, which monitors 29 agencies for compliance with the OGD. The timely creation of this Dashboard fulfills another promise contained in the OGD.

What’s notable about the White House’s Dashboard is that it helps hold agencies accountable by identifying the 4 agencies that have yet to fully comply with the OGD: the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Office of Personnel Management, the Council on Environmental Quality, and the Office of the US Trade Representative, in addition to indicating the 25 that have fully complied. These 4 agencies have yet to release all three high-value data sets. The Council on Environmental Quality receives an additional warning light for having failed to assign a senior official to ensure data quality.

We are in the preliminary stages of looking at what’s on these /open websites, with four questions initially springing to mind:

  • Are they making progress towards developing their Open Government Plan?

Both Intellitics and the General Services Administration have put together links to each agency’s pages (and RSS feeds) for gathering feedback and engaging in discussion with the public about the Plan. GSA has also added additional means of contact, specifically email and postal addresses.

In addition, GSA has there is an additional tool available: a wiki — the open government playbook — that aggregates a lot work done by the government and those outside the government on transparency. Its purpose is to “serve as a useful directory to [OGD] resources” — and invites everyone from government officials to members of the public to contribute. It is a great idea. (We had previously gathered all of our OGD resources on our separate wiki page.)

We’ll have a lot more to say in the upcoming days and weeks, particularly as we dig into the /open pages and the OGD Plan.

Before moving on, I must note that the White House took a risk in publicly setting a deadline for creating these /open pages. Meeting this deadline may not result in a lot of favorable media attention, but had agencies failed to do so, the White House may have been subject to a lot of criticism. The architects of the OGD deserve credit for taking a risk, for being willing to risk public failure in order to make something good happen. At first glace, they made it happen. Congratulations.

We’re going to take a hard look at these webpages to see how well they satisfy the details of the OGD, what improvements should be made, and evaluate the emergence of the Open Government Plan over the next 60 days. There’s a lot more to do, but Saturday marks an important milestone.

Updated: the wiki is linked to from GSA, but is not run by them. I’ve been lead to believe that Lucas Cioffi is one of the volunteers leading the wiki effort.

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