One hand clapping

As the curtain comes down on the Open Government Initiative's opening night, we figured it was time to hear from the critics. The reviews are decidedly mixed.

Barack Obama, now six months into his presidency, has led a fairly charmed existence. The honeymoon glow might be over, especially among bedrock conservatives who never liked him in the first place. But the infatuation lingers even as his policies on health care, climate control and government spending encounter varying blocs of resistance.

Part of this president’s ongoing charm, of course, is that he really does seem interested in hearing — and contemplating — all points of view. That openness to debate has a way of disarming many critics who are more used to shoving and shouting their way into the conversation.

Hewing to a public-engagement theme, the Obama administration has launched an unprecedented campaign to solicit opinions, practical advice and actual policy language from the public at large. The Open Government Initiative has now gone through its first live run — a three-part public-engagement exercise in ... well, how to engage the public in the exercise of government. (Applause here.)

As the curtain comes down on OGI’s opening night, we figured it was time to hear from the critics. Editor-at-Large John Stein Monroe sought out three experts to critique the initiative from their respective professional perspectives: technology and tools, policy-making, and grass-roots involvement.

As you’ll see, their reviews were decidedly mixed. But that’s probably a good thing. Public participation in government is a national work in progress — 220 years and counting, by my reckoning.

Obama might not win an Oscar for this particular performance. But then, it’s an honor just to be nominated.

About the Author

David Rapp is editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week and VP of content for 1105 Government Information Group.

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