Policy and News Updates for February 23, 2010



In This Issue: [click on the link to go to the corresponding section]

 

News from Coalition Partners & Others

I. OpenTheGovernment.org, Coalition Partners, React to High Value Datasets on Data.gov

II. White House Judges Open Government Progress

III. Agencies Want to Hear Your Open Government Ideas

News from Coalition Partners & Others

 

 

Register Online for NFOIC 2010 FOI Summit: May 7-8

The National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) and the Virginia Coalition for Open Government (VCOG) are pleased to announce that registration is open for the NFOIC 2010 FOI Summit on Friday, May 7, and Saturday, May 8, at the Hyatt Arlington in Arlington, Virginia. The event will feature keynote address by Miriam M. Nisbet, the Director of the new Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), and will include the following panel discussions: Freedom of Information Litigation: The State of Advocacy; Transparency in the Digital Age: The Report Card, thus far; and Coalition Sustainability and Fundraising.

 

MNCOGI Sponsors Freedom of Information Day and Award Ceremony – March 16

On Tuesday, March 16 from noon to 1 pm, the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI) will celebrate Freedom of Information Day and present the 2010 John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award to Reed Anfinson, Publisher and Owner Swift County Monitor-News. During the event, which is being held at the Minneapolis Central Library and is free and open to the public, the keynote address will be given by Minnesota Chief Justice Eric J. Magnuson.

 

GAP Presents "Anyone Can Whistle: The Essential Role of the Whistleblower in American Society"

On February 17, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) teamed up with Participant Media and the Paley Center for Media to present the first-ever televised, long-format special that details and analyzes what whistleblowers are, the six stages of whistleblowing they typically experience, and their lack of legal protections. Watch the archived video here.

 

National Security Archive Recommends FOIA Dashboard

Meredith Fuchs, General Counsel to the National Security Archive, is heading up an effort by the openness community to have the Department of Justice set up a FOIA Dashboard which would provide ready access to concrete data about agency FOIA performance, and the opportunity to improve FOIA administration. Dashboards are intended to provide easy, online, access to information that allows the public to compare agency performance, and hold them accountable. Learn more about the idea, and share your thoughts on this suggestion and others, by logging on to OpenDOJ.

 

OMB Watch Plans Webcast on Recovery Act Transparency

A webcast hosted by OMB Watch on Recovery Act Transparency that was postponed due to severely inclement weather will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. During the event panelists will address the extent to which the groundbreaking transparency provisions of the Recovery Act have yielded data that is informative and useful to groups and individuals outside of government, and changes that may be needed. Check out the OMB Watch Webcast Headquarters for details.

 

I. OpenTheGovernment.org, Coalition Partners, React to High Value Datasets on Data.gov

OpenTheGovernment.org and coalition partners wrote a letter to the Federal Chief Information Officer, Vivek Kundra, to raise concerns with the datasets submitted by agencies in order to meet their obligation under the Administration’s Open Government Directive (OGD) to post three high value datasets to Data.gov by January 22. The letter specifically addresses the release format and usability of the datasets by the public, the value of the releases, and data quality, and makes suggestions for improving their usefulness. The suggestions also have been posted to Evolving Data.gov, a forum set up by the Administration for the public to offer suggestions on improving Data.gov, and to vote and comment on other’s suggestions.

The letter also addressed the issue of datasets and tools that were removed from Data.gov with no notice. OpenTheGovernment.org continues to track agency participation in Data.gov; while some agencies have continued to post new datasets and tools, as of Friday, March 19 a larger number have been removed from the site. We continue to suggest that if an agency/ sub-agency removes anything from data.gov, the removal should be noted on the site, and a reason for the removal should be given.

II. White House Judges Open Government Progress

The White House has launched an initial version of an Open Government Dashboard, an online tool that allows citizens to follow and compare agencies implementations of the OGD. Currently, the dashboard judges agencies only on whether or not they have met the concrete expectations like releasing three high-value datasets on Data.gov and launching open government webpages (www.agency.gov/open) outlined by the OGD. After the agencies release their open government plans, however, the Administration plans to expand the dashboard to include both quantitative and qualitative measures of progress on openness.

The Administration is also developing a list of "stretch criteria" to help evaluate the open government plans agencies are required to submit by April 7th. The "stretch criteria" are intended to be challenging goals that indicate the agency is exceeding the requirements of the Directive. Agencies will be awarded for meeting these "stretch criteria." In a meeting with OpenTheGovernment.org partners and others, the members of the Open Government Working Group tasked with drawing up these criteria shared their thoughts on "stretch criteria" across three major categories of open government plan content: leadership, governance, and culture change; transparency; and participation and collaboration. In response, we have presented the group with suggestions for minimum criteria agencies should include in their plan to qualify for an award, and a detailed "disclosure floor" that lists the information that every agency must, at a minimum, make available to be judged as exceeding the Directive.

 

III. Agencies Want to Hear Your Open Government Ideas

You have until March 19th to share your comments and ideas with the agencies that have launched sites to allow the public to participate in creating their open government plans. Visit the Open Government Tracker to see how agency participation sites are evolving, and link to each discussion. Also, you can go to the OpenGov Open Feedback Firehose to sign up for a single RSS feed that combines the available RSS feeds from each participation site.

 

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