US CTO Chopra describes the work to be done on openness

Assessments show that we are off to a good start--but have much more work to do as we transition our overall efforts towards effective agency implementation. U....

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

Less than a year has passed since Aneesh Chopra was confirmed as the US Chief Technology Officer. Since then, the President opened a discussion with the American people about what “openness” in the federal government should mean, had a directive issued by OMB to put it in motion, and 45 days later, the first set of deliverables was due.

All of this, Chopra told Federal News Radio, is intended to “lead to a culture change here in Washington.”

Now, “three or four deliverables” later, Cabinet departments and other major agencies are implementing, and self-evaluating, version 1.0 of their Open Government Plans.

We roughly had 24 Cabinet level agencies participate and five departments that are officially recognized as departments within the Executive Office of the President, including my own home, the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

In a joint blog on the White House website written with US CIO, Vivek Kundra, Chopra said the initial assessments show “we are off to a good start — but have much more work to do” towards “effective agency implementation.”

Well, the President had always signaled that this initiative would be a long-term culture change. One that brought a seat for the American people more directly into the policy-making apparatus. That’s not going to happen overnight. We never intended this to be a compliance exercise or a “write a 700 page report and thank goodness you’re done and move on.” Our whole intention here was to have a living document. One that would be very, very open for improvement and refinement. So while we have seen the results, to date, how the agencies have described what they’ll be doing to make information more transparent, how they will listen to the American people more in policy-making, how they intend to collaborate with public-private and academic partners to achieve on policy goals, we are getting the feedback from the American people on how to make it even better.

Going forward, Chopra said he’s looking at how the agencies have taken the goals and exceeded expectations. Those will be compiled into a “leading practices summary“.

So it’s not just the fact that you look at the three that have green (the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Transportation, and NASA) and say “gosh, what have they done?” We actually believe a lot of the agencies that have been marked yellow because they forgot a particular component might really have excelled in one dimension and we should celebrate that. So our intention is, over the coming weeks, Vivek and I will publish a leading practices summary to help us identify what works and what doesn’t.

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