Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Please See My Four Ideas at White House.gov/OPEN (and then vote for them)

Last week, I told you about the White House opening up its "Open Government Initiative" by creating a special website for the public to suggest ideas on how federal departments and agencies can be more "transparent, participatory, and collaborative". Visitors to the website can also vote and comment on the "brainstorming" ideas.

Full-disclosure: I want you to give a "thumbs-up" vote to my ideas (below) the White House website for "open government" -- before it closes down on Thursday. Update 5/27/09: The links (below) have been corrected.

Supposedly, the ideas with the most votes will "bubble up" and receive special consideration by the White House "Open-Gov" team that is headed up by Beth Noveck, Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government.

The main goal of this "brainstorming" session (along with two other phases that will be open to the public) is to answer the overarching question:

"How can we strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness by making government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative?"

PLEASE NOTE (and VOTE): This first "brainstorming" phase ends sometime Thursday (5/28/09) and, in order to vote, you will have to give then an email and create a password). As I write this, there are already 500 ideas, but here are four ideas (below) that I ask that you consider and VOTE for. (Yes, they are my ideas.)


1. "MyGov.gov" --> Customized to What Affects YOU

The government should be trying to engage YOU (not vice-versa). For example, an email-notice can reach out and engage you, but an obscure website does not. "MyGov.gov" would let you fill out a profile, so that you will get email-notices ONLY about those things that affect YOU. (This is how USAjobs.gov already works.)

Give that idea a "thumbs-up" here:


2. Make It Safe for Govt. Workers to Innovate to Save Money

I'm a former federal employee who worked at five different agencies, and I know from experience that the only way for to make it safe for government workers to talk about saving money with innovative ideas (or simply pointing out waste) is to have an online system that allows them to raise the idea BUT hides their true identity. (FYI: The existing Inspector-General system does NOT do this.)

Give that idea a "thumbs-up" here:


3. Give Citizens a Simple Checklist for Rating "Public Engagement"

Citizens should have a simple checklist that they can take when they attend a public meeting so that they can rate how "open" the meeting was (i.e., with respect to Transparency, Participation, and Collaboration).

This simple checklist could be the standard tool for citizens to provide feedback to government agencies about the quality of their public engagement activities. In fact, the requirement for federal department and agencies to "solicit public feedback" about their public engagement is mentioned three (3) times in President Obama's Memorandum on Transparent and Open Government. (BTW: The League of Women Voters has something similar to this.)

Give that idea a "thumbs-up" here:


4. Let's Be Clear on the Terminology about "Public Engagement"

We need to better define the terms that we are using in order to have a better discussion about how we achieve Open Government. For example: If a "town-hall meeting" can be a political speech followed by couple questions, then does that qualify as "public engagement" (or is it just a photo-op)?

If we all have different ideas about what is (and is not) "public engagement" or "transparency" or (insert buzzword here), then we will have a very hard time reaching consensus about how to go forward. (This, of course, is one lesson from "The Tower of Babel").

Give that idea a "thumbs-up" here:


And if you are still interested ...

PHASE TWO: On June 3rd, the White House will begin Phase Two of the "Open Government Iniatitive" in which there will be an online discussion to "dig deeper on the ideas and challenges identified during the Brainstorm phase." However, there is an ongoing (unofficial) discussion about the "Open Government Directive" that anyone can join by going to http://groups.google.com/group/opengovernmentdirective


TinyURL for this posting:


Update (6/3/09): I was on the radio! To listen to me interviewed last week about this blog-post on D.C.'s "FederalNewsRadio" (1500AM-WTOP), click here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Public Commenting on the "Open Government Directive"

According to a notice that will appear in the Federal Register on May 21 (see link, below), the White House is inviting members of the public "to participate in the process of developing recommendations via email or the White House website at www.whitehouse.gov/open offering comments, ideas, and proposals about possible initiatives and about how to increase openness and transparency in government."

Federal Register notice as it appears on May 21, 2009:
(Text) http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-12026.htm
(PDF) http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/pdf/E9-12026.pdf

Note: The deadline for comments is June 19, 2009.

Once their website is open, I'd be interested to see your comments about it.

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Friday, May 1, 2009

No Due-date for Open Govt. Directive

Many "open-gov" reporters and bloggers have mistakenly said that the Open Government is due by this May 21. So, let me set things straight (so that YOU can be the smartest person at the next staff meeting on "open-gov"). Here it is:

The Presidential Memorandum on "Transparency and Open Government" does NOT require completion of the Open Government Directive (OGD) by May 21.

It only says that "recommendations" for the OGD be delivered by that date. The subsequent delivery of OGD, based on those recommendations, has no due-date in the President's Memorandum.

Of course, if the CTO (who was only recently hired) wants to rush the process faster than necessary (or prudent), then he can certainly do so.

That would not be surprising because, after all, D.C. is all about political expediency -- people are rarely given enough time to do it right the first time, but always given time to go back and fix it again and again.

And, if YOU know something that we don't know, then please share it with us here.