Found this on the White House Blog…  Change is Coming…

Seems odd the link to the Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act goes to the FDA site.


Last week the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) hosted the Open Government Brainstorm on behalf of the White House Open Government Initiative – the first of three phases in an unprecedented process of public engagement. The Brainstorm generated more than 1000 ideas to inform the crafting of recommendations on open government policy. Thank you to all who recognized the importance of this effort and participated thoughtfully.

Phase I was designed to elicit a wide array of actionable suggestions for creating a more transparent, participatory, and collaborative government. As we look toward tomorrow’s start of Phase II – the Discussion Phase – we have culled a short list of topics for deeper and more focused conversation from among the suggestions you posted during this Brainstorm, from those ideas shared by government employees during a similar online conversation in March, and from proposals submitted to “From The Inbox.”

We read and considered all the proposals. We took the voting into account when assessing your enthusiasm for a submission, but only somewhat in evaluating relevance. The ideas that received the most organized support were not necessarily the most viable suggestions.

Today, we want to share with you a little about what we’ve learned from you about transparency. Transparency is of vital importance. As the President emphasized in his Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act: “A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, ‘sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.’ …At the heart of that commitment is the idea that accountability is in the interest of the Government and the citizenry alike.”

There were plenty of great ideas that we read but that unfortunately did not make sense to bring into the next phase, including those with no relation to transparency policy, endorsing a product, or describing legislative action outside the purview of the Executive branch. We are bracketing suggestions for long-range change, such as proposals that require a constitutional amendment in favor of working with those that can lead to change in the shorter term. We are also temporarily putting to one side suggestions about transparency in specific agencies (ie. environmental or food safety transparency, creating Facebook pages for mail carriers, greater budgetary transparency in the Central Intelligence Agency). We will hold onto these proposals for subsequent conversations involving the decision-makers from the relevant agencies. Some ideas (ie. on or open source software) labeled with “Transparency” will fit better in our later discussions about Participation and Collaboration.

Here are some examples of specific submissions, grouped by issue.  We’ve attached a “mindmap” of the redacted transparency proposals so you can see a summary and overview of the themes that are emerging.  We have also attached the National Academy of Public Administration’s analysis of the Brainstorm (pdf).

1) Transparency Principles: How do we define transparency so that we can prioritize our policymaking?

  • Adopt 8 Open Government Data Principles (complete, primary, timely, accessible, machine processable, non-discriminatory, non-proprietary, license-free);
  • Adopt Carter Center Plan of Action for the Advancement of the Right of Access to Information;
  • Crowdsourcing should be adopted as a principle and best practices around the use of crowdsourcing to evaluate data should be established;
  • Agencies should explain all policy decisions and the rationales behind them in readable language;

2) Transparency Governance: How do we institutionalize transparency across all government agencies and establish structures to ensure thoughtful and considered progress toward transparency?

  • Replicate Florida’s model of an Office of Open Government;
  • Establish a Transparency Officer/Open Government Officer and interdisciplinary team in each agency whose job it is to inventory and proactively make data available to the public. Transparency officer must not be an information technology expert only but someone knowledgeable about legal frameworks, such as Privacy and Information Quality;
  • Create a data governance program/framework in each agency to evaluate data quality and priorities;
  • Seek public input on data to be made transparent;
  • Identify candidate agencies or programs as pilots for transparency;
  • Use Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) to bring together government and public researchers to collaborate on making data more accessible;
  • Confer transparency/open government awards.

3) Information Access: How do we improve the efficiency and effectiveness of access to government information? How do we improve the Government’s ability to disclose information pro-actively and bring down the cost and burden of compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?

  • Impose penalties on agencies not following FOIA or tolerating excessive delays. Look at India’s approach, in which government officials become personally liable and must pay fines if they do not act in a timely fashion;
  • Use visualization tools to show timeliness of FOIA processing in real time and track which official has responsibility for the request at any given time, i.e. workflow management;
  • Post frequently requested categories of information;
  • Require agencies to accept FOIA and Mandatory Declassification (MDR) requests via email;
  • Simplify implementation of FOIA;
  • Implement requirement to post disclosed information in electronic reading rooms;
  • Paper duplication costs should be reasonable. Electronic duplication should be free.

4) Data and Metadata: What technological approaches might be used to improve access to Government data? What Government-wide approaches to data and metadata should we be undertaking? How can we improve the usefulness of, the Government’s new platform for access to data?

  • Inventory and prioritize agency data for publication in open, downloadable formats;
  • Set agency targets: by a given date, X percent of non-sensitive agency data should be online;
  • Use as a repository of newly declassified information;
  • Make contributed data subject to a waiver of copyright and database rights using the “CCO” scheme from Creative Commons;
  • Standardize discovery and method calls to data sets;
  • Offer a crawling program to identify data that agencies could make available;
  • Establish a monitoring program to ensure that sensitive data is not released;
  • Collaborate with private sector on conferences on visualization to design tools for;
  • Adopt data dictionaries to ensure that terms have the same meaning across agencies;
  • Adopt better software for comparing relevance and meaning of documents to make government information more searchable;
  • More RSS data feeds and other points of access to government information;
  • Government should create permalinks on the paragraph level to make documents easier to cite;
  • Maintain a transparency dashboard to show progress toward transparency, e.g. the number of documents released;
  • Bring government services online and make them reusable by the private sector; if citizens own the services they should be able to build on top of them. This requires a “Services Oriented Architecture” approach (see: VA Loan Guaranty example);
  • Digitize all government research reports and make them available free via NTIS (the National Technical Information Service);
  • Convert Depository Libraries around the country into Regional Data Centers;
  • Make the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) the off-site electronic backup data center for all agency e-record systems.

5) Open Government Operations: What are the strategies for making the workings of government more open and accountable? How do we balance openness and other constraints, like privacy and efficiency?

  • Create a “” customized data feed/alert system that reaches across all federal agencies; i.e. create a “Citizens Portal”;
  • Publish a directory of who works in government. Agencies state there are legal issues and policies in place that prohibit them from posting their organization charts. Changing this might help increase transparency;
  • Publish a list of everyone who meets with the President;
  • Allow government employees to speak to journalists more freely to foster news-gathering;
  • Electronic voting machine hardware and software, from the machine in the polling booth to the collection systems used to collate results, should be subject to publication and verification;
  • Executive branch documents, such as the Federal Register and the Compilation of Presidential Documents, should be made available in downloadable and accessible formats;
  • Use innovative, new technology to create more transparent, effective, and efficient procurement strategies;
  • Require that all public agency meetings be webcast. Require that all Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) meetings be webcast;
  • Create weekly progress reports in which government employees rate and rank each other’s announcements as a mechanism to select the best ideas to report to the Secretary;
  • Every agency should develop a “Web 2.0” communications strategy to set forth how it will use new media to accomplish its mission;
  • Identify common innovation platforms — the basic frameworks needed across agencies for open government — and invest in building those.

While Phase I focused on idea gathering, Phase II focuses on defining the challenges in greater depth. We will be asking for your help with fleshing out the issues, potential solutions, and the pros and cons of proposed approaches.

Tomorrow, June 3rd, we will invite your comments on the first blog post of the Discussion Phase. The first set of posts will focus on each of the five transparency themes (principles, governance, access, data, operations) listed above, followed by a series of posts on participation and collaboration.

The goal of Phase II is to explore proposals for a Government-wide framework to achieve transparency, participation and collaboration. We want your help with translating good ideas into concrete, measurable and cost-effective solutions.

Beth Noveck is Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government.



The following are highlights of Summary Analysis of the Open Government Brainstorm:

Make Data More Accessible. The general theme of how to make government data more accessible to the public is foundational to the notion of transparency. Specific ideas that emerged in this thematic area include:

• Create structured data that is easily consumable. e.g. require XML, pursue CRADA-like agreements, define principles for open-source data.
• Bring government services online and make them reusable by the private sector; if citizens own the services they should be able to build on top of them. This requires a SOA approach The VA Loan Guaranty Service is also a good example.
• Ensure a CCO Creative Common copyright waiver for products created with contributions. There should be a way to allow non-government Open Source Transparency Projects to work for free for the government (right now, they cannot contribute).
• Post all FOIA request responses on the web so everyone, not just the requester, has access.
• Digitize all government research reports and make them available free via NTIS.
• Convert Depository Libraries around the country into Regional Data Centers.
• Make NARA the off-site electronic backup data center for all agency e-record systems.
• Build the cost of records retention management into agency IT purchases.

Make Government More Open. Access to data is a necessary but not sufficient condition for transparency. Government must also ensure that the public understands the process by which policy is created, services are delivered and decisions are made. Specific ideas that emerged in this thematic area focused largely on performance measurement and accountability:

• Create a “” customized RSS feed/alert system that reaches across all federal agencies; create a “Citizens Portal”.

• Appoint a transparency ombudsman in each agency, with governmentwide leadership:

o Require annual agency report cards on their transparency;
o Develop measures to track progress/extent of transparency and openness being achieved by each agency; and
o This person should not be in IT, but rather have FOIA, Privacy, Plain Language, and Info Quality Act experience.

• Impose penalties on agencies not following FOIA, or creating excessive delays. One suggestion was to look at India’s approach, where government officials become personally liable and must pay fines if they do not act in a timely fashion.

• Agencies state there are legal issues and policies in place that prohibit them from posting their organization charts. Changing this might help increase transparency.

• Government should communicate a governmentwide strategy for using social media tools to create a more effective and transparent government; agency CTOs should develop their own social media/Web 2.0 communication plans.

Grassroots/Local Civic Participation/Deliberative Democracy

o This was the largest and most well-prepared group in the Brainstorm: they were early to the table and augmented their ranks as the dialogue proceeded.
o Comments centered on how to bring together representative groups of citizens to deliberate together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and learning on matters of common concern in which, it is hoped, common purpose might bridge the divides that usually make collective action difficult.
o A number of these participants expressed skepticism about the use of voting as a primary means of eliciting opinion in civic participation exercises, viewing it as tending to divide, polarize and create winners and losers. They were much more interested in how to reduce conflict by framing issues in terms of objectives that might be shared, and in helping to foster community feeling.
o These contributors focused on achieving diversity and effective universal access to process, seeking to claim the legitimacy that flows from the perception of fairness and respect for individual and minority views.
o These contributors suggested methods of educating the public and equipping ordinary citizens to handle issues of public importance. Several of these groups had had experience in conducting local civic participation exercises. Some were well-known facilitators, e.g., AmericaSpeaks. Some were local government officials (e.g., from King County, WA), and a few were international (from the Netherlands and Canada). Much of this work had a strong theoretical basis in social science.

There were several proposals for using “crowdshaping” for making administrative decisions. Some of the contributors to the MAX forum agree on the usefulness of enlisting the “wisdom of crowds” for eliciting expertise on particular subjects.

o The Brainstorm produced some ideas that might be actionable in the short term. These are:
o Web design issues: Use well-designed feedback systems instead of central control to improve web design; Use good collaboration practices in web and other technology design; Make government websites mobile platform-ready.
o Data handling issues: Form a working group on interoperability to adopt Semantic Web 3.0; Use web and technical standards for handling data; Make all agency regulations, guidance, etc., easily searchable down to the internal database level.
o Procedural reforms: Review certification and accreditation IT processes to prevent the blocking of innovation; Create standards for agency webforms through which they communicate with the public.

Additional actionable suggestions from the Brainstorm

• Make the public comment period 30 days per 750 pages for all documents subject to public review (e.g., Environmental Impact Statements).
• Make the NEPA EIS process “open book.”
• When the public is invited to comment on an agency proposed action, allow the public access to the same logic and data on which the policy itself is based.
Benefits/services administration
• Speed up processing of Social Security disability benefits so disabled people do not lose their homes while waiting to be approved.
• Make the immigration visa process transparent so applicants can track the status of their application.

From the MAX group: actionable suggestions
• Rather than designing government-specific software, use non-governmental methods already familiar to the public to facilitate public participation, e.g., Wikipedia, Ning. Technology for Interactive Media (Web 2.0) needs to be part of the Federal Standard Network Configuration.
• Engage in targeted crowdsourcing
• Allow government employees to engage in social networking.
• Emulate DoDTechipedia to communicate with supplier communities to level playing field between small and large enterprises
• Address Legal Issues arising out of the applicability of cross-cutting legal requirements to participation and collaboration efforts:
o Privacy Act
o Records Management
o Paperwork Reduction Act
o Sec.508 of the Rehabilitation Act

Invite Collaboration
• Invite nonprofits and community groups to collaborate via a website sorted by goal and objective—a survey of one Chicago neighborhood found 400 community groups, 75% of which were willing to do more in the community, even beyond their stated purpose, but no one had asked.
• For target areas (e.g., disconnected youth, livable communities, regional planning, etc.), each agency with relevant funding programs should be required to join others with relevant funding to streamline regulations, support unified public participation frameworks, and promote progress toward a shared set of outcomes.
• Require Federal Executive Boards to submit a plan within 180 days for how they will advance the goals of the Open Government Directive through collaborative regional projects.
• Invest in community organizers.

From the MAX group
• A recurring theme in the MAX Community was the desire for a governmentwide, Web-based collaborative space on the model of the Intelligence agencies’ Intelink. Those with access to this community were uniformly enthusiastic about it, especially about the extent to which training is provided those who qualify for its use. The enthusiasm of this discussion intimates there is real potential in this idea. (Max 6.2)
• MAX surfaced other useful touchpoints, such as:
o The need for a potential “collaborator” level of authentication for participation in government networks.
o The need for a data classification scheme that can be applied agency-wide (no more FOUO and SBU but one new category).
o The need to reform FISMA, specifically, the guidance on identity and creating accounts.

• Similar to other civic engagement efforts by the White House, the Brainstorm saw many comments from those in favor of legalizing Marijuana and/or “ending the war on drugs”.

Other comments that may be loosely categorized as “legal and policy”, but were clearly off-topic as it relates to this Brainstorm, pertained to issues such as the use of torture/waterboarding, ending the electoral college, and reforming the banking industry.

Legal and Policy

• Redefine FOIA rules to include documents produced by contractors for the government (uncertain about the current policy on this).
• Directives and legislation providing protection for whistleblowers who disclose waste, fraud, or abuse within an agency, and punitive processes for managers who retaliate against those whistleblowers in their performance reviews should be established. The president should also work with Congress to enact comprehensive federal whistleblower reform that extends meaningful protections to law enforcement and intelligence agency whistleblowers.
• Revise the U.S. Code and Administrative Procedure Act to empower agencies to make greater use of collaborative governance, including dialogue, deliberation, and deliberative democracy, and also to collaborate with all levels of governance (federal, state, regional, and local), private, and nonprofit sectors.

Hiring and Recruitment

• Several comments pertaining to USA Jobs and the need to: 1) be able to track paperwork once submitted; and 2) find a way to cull out real job opportunities versus positions that have to be posted despite already having an internal candidate in mind.
• Several comments pertaining to leveraging people in the State Department for foreign language needs within government.

Performance Appraisals

• Implement 360 degree performance appraisals.
• Create a new set of core competencies for executives based on the new skills needed for transparent, participatory and collaborative government.

Training and Development

• Create simple knowledge sharing/collaboration tools for government employees
• Promote web 2.0 literacy in government

Strategic Planning

• Every agency should plan and budget for integrating public participation and collaborative processes into their programmatic work. Link program/agency budgets to open government objectives.
• Use the President’s Management Council as the key oversight body for the transparency initiative.
• Appropriately resource FOIA and e-gov programs so they can implement the transparency/openness recommendations.
• Tie grant money to open government standards.
• Build on the success of existing federal information exchanges to improve data sharing. e.g. EPA’s CDX (Central data exchange)

Potential Topics for Phase II Discussion:

• How can current FOIA rules be strengthened and improved to ensure access to information and promote transparency in government?
• What specific actions can be taken to encourage and protect “Whistle-blowers” who disclose waste, fraud and abuse?
• How should we best deal with existing regulatory and policy frameworks to empower agencies to make greater use of collaborative governance tools and to collaborate with all levels of government (federal, state, regional, and local), private, and nonprofit sectors). e.g. Revise the U.S. Code and Administrative Procedure Act? Re-fund ACUS (the Administrative Conference of the United States, a government advisory body that deals with regulatory issues) to help sort things out?


Information about traffic to and participation in the brainstorming site provides critical context for the observations above. The platform, along with Google Analytics software allowed two general types of information to be captured: traffic metrics and participation metrics…

Traffic Metrics.  During the course of the seven days the National Academy actively monitored the site, May 21st through May 28th, the site produced the following traffic:

• 30,222 visits from 20,830 unique visitors.
• Each visitor spent an average of five minutes and 31 seconds on the site.
• Forty percent of the visits came directly to the site’s web address, while 17% linked to the site through
• There were 113,648 page views, with the average visitor looking at between 3 and 4 pages.
• There were at least ten visits from every U.S. state and territory, as well as visits from 123 foreign countries and territories. (Germany was second to the United States with 1,023 visits followed by Canada with 603).

Site Participation. While traffic metrics are important in quantifying the reach of the Open Government Dialogue, metrics relating specifically to participation help convey the extent to which visitors were compelled to take part in the Dialogue. Over the course of a week, the Brainstorm generated:

• 4,000 registered users (about nineteen percent of unique visitors).
• 1,129 unique ideas, which prompted 2,176 comments and 46,469 votes.
The site’s nineteen percent “conversion rate”—the rate of unique visitors that ultimately created a user account so they could participate in the Brainstorm—shows that nearly one in five visitors wanted to engage in this conversation. The site also reached a ratio of total votes (both in favor and opposition) to ideas of over 41:1, implying that users used the voting mechanism as a way to provide feedback on ideas.