Agencies update progress on transparency plans

Year anniversary of open government plans marked with reports, blogs, graphics

A year after the Obama administration released the first wave of plans for making the government more transparent, federal agencies are publishing progress reports and touting achievements under those plans.

Under the White House’s Open Government Directive issued in December 2009, departments and agencies were required to produce open government plans in April 2010 that outlined their activities to advance transparency, people's participation and collaboration. An Office of Management and Budget dashboard tracked self-assessments of progress under the plans, and a coalition of watchdog groups, working as Openthegovernment.org, released audits of the 29 federal plans last year.

For the year anniversary of federal open government plans, NASA, the General Services Administration (GSA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Social Security Administration (SSA) and several other agencies recently published reports, blog posts, video presentations and graphics highlighting milestones reached in those activities.


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For example, NASA’s Office of the CIO published on its blog on April 17 a Web link to a new visual graphic  about NASA’s progress on 150 open government milestones from April 2010 to today. According to the graphic, 64 percent of the transparency milestones have been completed, and 36 percent are in progress. The chart also highlights in bold letters NASA’s nearly 20 million YouTube views, 919,000 Twitter followers and 332,000 Facebook fans.

The GSA issued a Version 1.2 open government plan on April 7 adding two new flagship initiatives, which are the ePubs Government Bookstore, a partnership between Google and the U.S. Government Printing Office to make popular government publications available for free online via electronic download. The other new program is Business Breakthrough, which is a transparency program for small business federal contracting.

The EPA released a six-page open government progress report containing links to quarterly self-assessments of progress as well audits of how well the open government plan aligned with agency strategic objectives. The Housing and Urban Development Department published a blog entry and video on its HUDdle Blog with a progress report on open government.

The SSA published a Web page report and a colorful visual graphic highlighting work on three flagship transparency initiatives and a timeline of programs such as completion of a data inventory, release of data to Data.gov, redesign of the SSA Web portal and launch of a Spanish-language retirement estimator.

“We head into the second year of our OG [open government] plan with some clear lessons from the first: Change is hard, but positive change is always worth the effort,” the SSA’s one-year open government audit stated. “In a tight and uncertain budget environment, resources for new OG projects can be hard to pin down. We need to develop strong business cases to support funding these projects, and we need to seek free or low-cost solutions when possible.”

The SSA also advised aligning open government initiatives to agency goals and being careful to ensure that social media tools used comply with Section 508 rules on accessibility for people with disabilities.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also released a one-year progress report   that said its progress as “very good.” The commission listed achievements including the debut of its first blog in January 2011 and establishing an open government advisory group.

HUD, in an entry in its HUDdle Blog, talked about progress on transparency and posted a video featuring comments by Stan Buch, director of innovation and open government in the HUD Office of the CIO.

In a White House Blog entry on the one-year anniversary, Chris Vein, White House deputy CTO for innovation, outlined achievements in open government that included 380,000 datasets released on Data.gov, 75 challenge competitions on Challenge.gov and 30 new jobs created by a single company by using federal data.

However, transparency advocates in recent weeks have said those programs could be endangered by budget cuts. Congress in its fiscal 2011 budget bill reduced funding for Data.gov, Challenge.gov and other initiatives that are included in the GSA’s e-government fund to $8 million for the year, down from $34 million in previous years.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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