Key to Open Government

, Alanna Hultz, Leave a comment

At a Center for American Progress (CAP) event, Dan Chenok, a member of President Obama’s “Technology, Innovation and Government Reform” transition team, Vivek Kundra, newly appointed federal Chief Information Officer, Katherine McFate, Program Officer for Government Performance and Accountability at the Ford Foundation’s Governance Unit and Bill Noveck, professor of law and director of the Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School discussed what the Obama administration hopes to achieve, the policy issues facing the administration, the Obama administration’s vision for e-government and financial and economic transparency.

Kundra was the first panelist to speak and he said “there are two things we need to recognize, first that systems and information will be transparent rather than default and second understand the function of priorities and how to put data in the public’s hand.” Some examples he gave were the Recovery Act and how the public can access it in an easy, readable format on He also mentioned the planned launch of as a way to transform the way the government pushes information. He also discussed a context-driven government rather than the old way of connecting the public to agencies and bureaucracies rather than services. Kundra said the federal government has over 24,000 websites, and sites such as Facebook have over 138 million users versus the number of hits an agency’s website would get. He said “the question is how do we get government services in social networks?” He also suggested that the Chief Information Officers across the executive branch rationalize the billions of dollars from the government to purchase technology and move toward a more context-driven government. When asked if any nation was doing open government well or if there were any models the U.S. could follow, Kundra suggested Singapore.

Noveck was the second panelist to address the issue and she said “we need to drive three values: transparency, collaboration and participation.” Noveck believes we need transparency to create opportunities for civic engagement and collaboration so we have the ability to cooperate with levels of government. She also said “ and are not easy, simple or quick but it will begin to change data and information of the government to make it more accessible to citizens.” She also said transparency won’t be solved in one document and that programs need to be developed to show more transparency. Noveck also mentioned Sunshine week, which is a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.

Chenok believes the more people who are aware of the programs, the more effective the government will be in the budget. He also said, “I’m optimistic things are moving in a positive direction.” Chenok also discussed transparency, acceptance, perception and privacy. He said that “we need transparency as a nation so that we can understand more.” He believes acceptance is as important as opportunity.

The last speaker on the panel was McFate and she said that “we need policy and practice to make more programs transparent.” She also believes the money needs to be spent efficiently. McFate also said that “there are three important things we need to look at, report monthly to the database identifying how the money is being spent, make sure information on website will be public and available in a searchable format and, lastly, the process of where the money is going.”

Alanna Hultz is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.