Now Is the Time

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There’s no better time to speak up for what kinds of information you want from federal agencies.

As yesterday’s launch of the opengovtracker.com page makes enormously clear, agencies are now accepting suggestions, commentary, and ideas on how they should be more transparent.  ProPublica has a similar tracker, with a link to each agency’s efforts.

The interactions range from complex and substantive (look at the VA site, for example), to, well, just getting started.  Or, what the opengovtracker page helpfully calls “needs some love.”

Sharing your ideas now has multiple advantages.  Officials at agencies all hope their /open pages and dialogs will be productive.  If there are more comments, and better ideas, then their work is more worthwhile.

The Open Government working groups are all hungry for ideas, and the dialogs on the ideascale pages are the surest way to be sure your suggestions are heard.  Of course, there’s no guarantee that agencies will implement any of the suggestions.

Even so, there has never been a better way to make sure your transparency ideas are being heard by individual agencies.

These dialogs are all being at the same time that agencies craft their open government plans (increasing their impact), and are happening at the individual agency level.  This means that suggestions can be substantive, and relevant to specific topic areas.

In other words, these dialogs are primarily NOT about people like me — people who work on policy in the transparency advocacy community.  I hope that this can be the start of a broader public demand for transparency.

Advocates for specific issues, without regard for ideology, should all be transparency advocates.  Access to information empowers meaningful, informed action, and issue advocates from every issue should be aware that they have an enormous opportunity, right now, to have their voices heard, and their needs met.

If you know of something an agency should be doing differently, now is the time to share it.  If you’re a member of a group that deals with federal information, now is the time for them to become transparency advocates.

There’s no better time.

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  • You should reach out to networks of nonprofits who do advocacy and ask them to invite their members/networks to get involved.