Report provides open government suggestions

Suggestion made to the OpenGov Dialog Web site summarized in report

New suggestions on how to make the federal government more transparent include appointing a senior representative in each agency to lead transparency programs, adopting common data standards, and creating a one-stop portal for all budget data, according to a report published by the National Academy of Public Administration.

At the request of White House officials, NAPA hosted an online program named the OpenGov Dialogue where members of the public were asked to submit ideas on how the government can be more transparent. Visitors were also asked to rate the ideas.

The White House also asked NAPA to analyze the results and provide a synthesis of key themes. The report published June 1 provides a summary of the ideas received during Phase I of the project, from May 21 to May 28.

One question that emerged is the public wants to know, “What is the purpose of transparency?” Is it to create trust, increase accountability or both?

“Answering this will be important in defining the needs of the ‘sender’ (government) vs. the ‘receiver’ (the public),” the NAPA report states.

Another major theme was how to make government data more accessible to the public, according to the report. Some people said the solution is to create structured data that is easily consumable such as Extensible Markup Language, and others suggested pursuing a cooperative research and development agreement that defines principles for open-source data. Others suggested bringing government services online and making them reusable by the private sector.

“If citizens own the services, they should be able to build on top of them,” the report states. “This requires a service-oriented architecture approach.”

Others recommended posting all Freedom of Information Act request responses on the Web so everyone, not just the requester, would have access. Another idea is to impose penalties on agencies not following FOIA, or for creating excessive delays.

Other ideas focused primarily on performance measurement and accountability; for example, creating a customized RSS feed/alert system that reaches across all federal agencies.

Meanwhile, others suggested a transparency ombudsman in each agency who would do things such as produce annual report cards on transparency.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Thu, Jun 4, 2009

At the risk of seeming to oversimplify what is a complicated topic, a very real requirement is to minimize, with the objective of eliminating, too much influence by special interests that have a broad impact on the country as a whole. For example, as President Eisenhower warned (paraphrased) "beware of the military-industrial complex."

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