12 Days of Open Government Resolutions – Day 2: Update Public on Agencies’ Open Gov Work

Each post in the series of posts we plan to publish between now and December 25 focuses on a resolution the Obama Administration realistically can use to make the federal government more open and accountable in the coming year. See below for links to previous resolutions.

Open Government Resolution 2 for the Obama Administration – Make it easier for the public to track agencies’ open government work

President Obama's January 21, 2009 Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government and the resulting December 8, 2009 Open Government Directive launched a novel policy experiment intended to make open government a part of each federal agency's culture. Among other steps, the Directive required agencies to submit "high-value data" to data.gov, set up /open pages and develop and publish Open Government Plans. Those plans are required to be updated at least every two years.

When the initiative was first announced, the White House put up an Open Government Dashboard that made it easy for the Administration and the public to track which agencies were excelling, and which were falling behind. Unfortunately, however, that dashboard – though still featured on the White House's /open page – has not been updated since the first versions of the plans were released in April 2010. At this point the only way for the public to find out if an agency is meeting its commitments in the plans, or even updating the plans as required (which some agencies were quite late doing), is to search for the information on each agency's page, and many of them also have dormant /open pages.

For the most part, government dashboards are intended to "fame and shame" agencies into performing better by making it easy for the public, Congress, and agency managers to see how the agency is performing in relation to its peers. Dashboards are a great tool for accountability, but only if they are kept up to date. The Administration should find a way to make it easy for the public to find out and understand what open government work agencies are doing, either by updating the dashboard (and making the underlying data more available), or through some other method.

12 Days of Open Government Resolutions for the Obama Administration:

Resolution 1: Begin gathering public input for Version 2 of the US National Action Plan

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