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White House Releases Open Government Directive Mandating Transparency

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WASHINGTON, December 8, 2009 - The White House on Tuesday sent an open government directive to every federal department and agency with instructions on actions that should be taken to make their operations more open to the public, according to a blog entry from Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag.

“The three principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration are at the heart of this directive. Transparency promotes accountability. Participation allows members of the public to contribute ideas and expertise to government initiatives. Collaboration improves the effectiveness of government by encouraging partnerships and cooperation within the federal government, across levels of government, and between the government and private institutions,” said Orszag.

The move follows President Obama’s action his first day in office to sign a memorandum to federal agencies directing them to break down public barriers to transparency, participation, and collaboration. Orszag noted the White House is now publishing the names of all its visitors and posting more information on federal spending and research.

In addition to the directive, the White House released (PDF) an open government progress report noting that the Obama Administration is experimenting with new techniques and tools to improve citizen engagement. The report adds that the administration is working on “developing “communities of practice” to facilitate the sharing of ideas and software code across agencies and levels of government to realize open government in practice.”

"The Open Government Directive issued today demonstrates the seriousness of administration's commitment to data transparency and citizen engagement," said Ellen Miller, executive director and co-founder of the Sunlight Foundation, in a statement.

Jim Harper of the CATO Institute was critical of the Obama Administration’s progress toward openness. “Today the White House announces plans for dramatic steps forward on government transparency. But the steps it could have taken starting on day one remain promises unfulfilled.

President Obama’s “Sunlight Before Signing” campaign pledge breaks every time he signs a bill without posting its final version at for five days of public review before signing it,” he wrote in a Wednesday blog entry.

Computer & Communications Industry Association President Ed Black said he thought the directive was positive but took the opportunity to complain about the lack of transparency surrounding a proposed multilateral trade agreement for establishing international standards on intellectual property known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

The United States Trade Representatives has said it has taken steps to make information on ACTA more open.

Winter covered technology policy issues for five-and-a-half years as a reporter for the National Journal Group. She has worked for USA Today, the Washington Times, the Magazine Group, the State Department’s International Visitor’s Program, and the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. She also taught English at a university in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

1 Comment

  1. Business Software Alliance President Robert Holleyman said “BSA and its members are encouraged by the Administration’s work today, and the guideposts and deadlines it has set forth for future government endeavors.”

    BSA said it “strongly urges executive departments and agencies to adhere to the important principle of technological and vendor neutrality so that solutions aren’t biased toward a specific software development model or a specific vendor. Neutrality will ensure greater competition, innovation, choice and trust – all of which are essential to a strong and healthy open government.”

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