Open Government Directive: Looking Forward


As Daniel noted, Friday was a big day for the Open Government Directive.

On the timeline (WH version) of what the Directive requires, Friday was the deadline for:

  • each agency to post an webpage,
  • the White House to post the Open Government Dashboard, and
  • OMB guidance on federal spending transparency.

As the White House dashboard makes clear, agencies have posted their /Open pages, along with pages designed for feedback and ideas for open government.  (Here’s DOD’s ideascale page, for example.)  Most agencies have deployed the Ideascale tool that the GSA helped prepare for this purpose.

As observers judge the administration’s progress in the face of this milestone, they should remember that the requirements for the Directive are intended to be both aggressive and iterative.  They’re aggressive in that agencies were given a 60 day deadline for the creation of a Web page, (a short time to design something so important).  They’re iterative because the deadlines are only deadlines for a launch, not a final evaluation.

That’s why the White House Open Government Dashboard is evaluating on largely binary terms.  Agencies have either launched their /Open pages, or they haven’t.  They either designated an official for data integrity, or they haven’t.

This is an appropriate level of administration scrutiny for how the OGD was designed.  More detailed evaluation metrics would have taken time to design and implement, and if agencies were going to be judged on a 45 point system, they would have waited far longer to launch their /Open pages.

Sometimes the best thing to do is act, and to make improvements as necessary.

That should be the spirit in which the Administration’s Open Government Initiative is being undertaken, and it should be judged on similar terms.

Just as the balance between judgment and creativity is important for other aspects of government performance, it’s appropriate for the OGD, where the Administration has chosen a highly public, iterative, experimentational approach to creating a more transparent government.

It’s time to start thinking about how agencies should be judged on their progress on the Directive.  It’s also time for anyone for has an interest in agencies data to speak up, and let agencies know what they need.  We should think about what agencies’ Open Government Plans should look like, and how we can make sure they’re effective.

Those plans are required to be posted on April 7th of this year, and they will set the stage for access to agency transparency from now on.