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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Obama directive to agencies: "open up".. like this!

While we mull over the draft report from the Federal Government's Gov 2.0 Task Force before submissions close next Wednesday, President Obama has upped the ante on open government, issuing this Directive to all US Federal agencies. A few highlights.

Each agency is to:

Publish before the end of January at least three collections of "high value" government data on the Internet that never have been previously disclosed. The material must increase accountability, improve public understanding about the agency's mission, create economic opportunities, or be in high demand by the public.

Create an Open Government Webpage within 60 days describing its activities related to open government.The Webpage shall incorporate a mechanism for the public to:
i. Give feedback on and assessment of the quality of published information;
ii. Provide input about which information to prioritize for publication; and
iii. Provide input on the agency’s Open Government Plan

Within 120 days develop and publish on its Open Government Webpage an Open Government Plan-in effect a strategic action plan for transparency- that will describe how it will improve transparency and integrate public participation and collaboration into its activities, in particular (1) inventories agency high-value information currently available for download; (2) fosters the public’s use of this information to increase public knowledge and promote public scrutiny of agency services; and (3) identifies high value information not yet available and establishes a reasonable timeline for publication online in open formats with specific target dates.

Designate a high level senior official to be accountable for the quality and objectivity of, and internal controls over, the Federal spending information publicly disseminated

Distribute useful information without waiting for requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

Take steps to reduce backlogs of requests for records under the Freedom of Information Act by 10 percent annually.

Consider how agencies can use contests and prizes to find new ways for employees to improve open government.

The Directive includes all sorts of related policy development and coordination initiatives, requiring links between agency and central government websites, and directions on use of open formats as well. No worry about copyright- Government has no copyright under US law.

While some initiatives mimic developments in certain quarters here, the directive generally is more comprehensive and goes further than we have ventured. It provides plenty of thought starters for those thinking about these issues in Australia.

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