Happy One Year Anniversary! A Year of Progress in Open Government

Though it’s being overshadowed by the budget discussions this week, it’s important to note (and celebrate!) that today (April 7th) is the one year anniversary of Agency Open Government Plans. Just one year ago, almost 30 plans were released from cabinet-level and independent Agencies that detailed how they would become more: • Transparent in their work;

• Participatory in seeking the ideas and expertise of citizens; and

• Collaborative in how they use new technology and processes for developing government policies.

The traditional gift for a one year marriage anniversary is paper. Ironically, that pretty well captures a lot of the effort that has happened behind the scenes at agencies for the last year. Countless hours have been spent developing government-wide and Agency-specific policies, guidance and plans—critical foundational documents to support Open Government goals. This is the work that is not as often celebrated in the press or on blogs, but its importance cannot be overstated. This work is setting the stage for an even more exciting year two.

But significant progress has been made in one year and there’s a lot to celebrate. So to honor the one year anniversary of Open Gov, I’ve listed a few examples of what the Federal Open Government community has accomplished to date in a remarkably short period of time.

There are likely many more worthy examples so please add your comments to this posting to build to the body of examples. As always, feel free to reach out to me at jgustetic@phaseonecg.com to extend the conversation.

Transparency

In the last year we launched programs that reach citizens where they are to make government data more accessible...

Blue Button: According to the White House Innovation’s Gallery, previously “veterans could not download their personal information and share it with others - even doctors. VA has developed and installed a new feature – the Blue Button – on its online personal health portal, My HeatheVet. Veterans who have identity verified access to My HeatheVet can click a “Blue Button” on the website to download their health information to their own home computer or portable memory device. They can share that information with other providers, caregivers, or family members safely, securely, and privately. Of the 1.1 million users of My HealtheVet, more than 233,000 Veterans have upgraded (identity-verified) access to data from their VA medical record via Blue Button. During the first two months following Blue Button’s launch on August 28, 2010 about 100,000 Veterans asked to view their personal health data using the Blue Button and more than 150,000 PHRs were downloaded.” This is a great example of how a big part of transparency is making government data accessible and usable for the general public.

Community Health Data Initiative:“The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) holds vast amounts of data that could help improve health including but not limited tosmoking rates, obesity rates, rates of potentially avoidable hospitalizations, determinants of health such aslocal access to healthy food), hospital quality, nursing home quality, and much more. The question faced by HHS: how best to unleash the power of this data to help improve health? HHS is supplying to the public – free of charge and without intellectual property constraint -- a growing array of online, easily accessible, downloadable health data. Simultaneously and very importantly, HHS is also proactively marketing the availability of this data to innovators from the worlds of technology, business, media, academia, public health, and health care. These groups are using the data to power a growing array of applications that benefit the public.” (via the White House Innovations Gallery) The result? New community health maps and dashboards, health data integrated with web search — like hospital satisfaction scores on Bing, health care provider finders, educational games, and powerful new analytical tools for clinical providers, journalists, and community leaders, and much more. Government data is directly reaching citizens like never before.

In the last year we brought people together to build the body of knowledge around transparency issues at the....

Data.gov International Open Government Data Conference: The Data.gov Program Managment Office put together the first ever International Open Government Data Conference from November 15-17, 2010. The event brought together representatives from many Federal agencies and leaders from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Brazil, and Australia, focusing on the real, practical issues governments are facing while highlighting the innovations surrounding open data. Attendees were exposed to a wide array of perspectives, Dan Morgan noted that the conference represented a bit of a shift in the conversation: concentrating less on the act of opening data and narrowing in on why opening data is important.

NASA Open Source Summit: On March 29 & 30, NASA hosted its first Open Source Summit at Ames Research Center in Mountain View California where engineers and policy makers across NASA and respected members of the open source community came together to discuss the challenges with the existing open source policy framework, and propose modifications that would make it easier for NASA to develop, release, and use open source software. But why is this conference a big deal? As eloquently stated to me by one of my colleagues, Dan Morgan, “it's the law. Open Source Software is a required alternative that should be considered, but government is taking a different view about why these days. Counting on the Open Source Software community for patches and updates at speed keeps government naturally updated and keeps the procurement cycle out of the way. Plus, government's giving back - the White House is contributing to the Drupal code base.” This summit brought together some important minds to think about how to do this more effectively in Government.

In the last year we pushed the limits of our own comfort zones to be more transparent and availble to the public....

The HUDdle Blog: To quote HUD, “To better learn from you and share the thoughts and ideas that shape our mission, we’ve launched our new official blog, The HUDdle. Not only can you use it to find out the latest news, but you can contribute and register your own opinions in our comment section. Most recently we’ve launched a Spanish language translation of the blog to provide even more accessibility for the Hispanic community.” This two way blog is a pretty big deal for HUD—they haven’t often been thought of as the more open and innovative agency, but this new way of engaging with the public and stakeholders demonstrates their commitment to integrate these principles into the way they do business. (Disclaimer: the HUD Open Gov Initiative a Phase One Consulting Group client) Participation In the last year we created platforms that make public participation in policy making, planning, and rulemaking more feasible and effective....

Federal Register 2.0: This is a big step towards helping the government and citizens work together better on policy making. “The new Federal Register website has a clear layout and Web 2.0 tools to help users find what they need. Users can check timelines for the entire history of rulemaking actions and set up RSS feeds on any topic or search term. Readers can easily connect with Regulations.gov to submit their comments on regulatory actions and read other public comments and supporting material. The site was built at minimal cost in just three months by using open source software and through collaboration with non-profit organizations, universities, and the open government community. The open source programming code is available for reuse by all.” (White House Innovations Gallery)

DOT’s Regulation Room: Regulation Room is a groundbreaking effort to bring the public into the rulemaking process in a more effective and useful way. It is an innovative pilot program between the Department of Transportation and researchers from Cornell University’s Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative (CeRI) that allows the general public to comment on and discuss federal proposed rules through a transparent and intuitive online social platform. (Disclaimer: the DOT Open Gov Initiative a Phase One Consulting Group client) A great paper was recently published by Cornell that describes in more detail the impact of this type of collaboration on rulemaking.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Open for Suggestions: As a new Agency, CFPB has been open from the start. One the day they launched their new website they engaged in an “open for suggestions” campaign that received citizen feedback through tweets, online forms, and other mechanisms, and they committed to responding within hours. What's more, they take transparency seriously and have posted Elizabeth Warren's calendar since day one, posted all their letters to and from Congress, and consistently deliver messages that articulate their commitment to transparency (example, example, example). I’m excited to see what the coming years will have in store for them. In the last year we reached nontraditional groups through new means…

Social Security 101: On Thursday, March 10, 2011, SSA hosted an interactive broadcast for young adults titled “Social Security 101: What’s in it for me?” The webinar targeted college students and young workers around the country and focused on Social Security issues of special importance to them – disability and survivors insurance, financial principles of the program, how workers and their families qualify for coverage, and steps to plan and save for their financial future. The webinar also included a live Q&A session. Over 60 colleges/universities participated. Viewers even tuned in from foreign countries! Promotion of the webinar occurred largely through viral social media, generating more than 500,000 impressions through Twitter alone.

Collaboration

In the last year we laid we the groundwork for the Federal Government’s use of prizes and competitions to stimulate innovation and solve tough problems....

America COMPETES Act: Passage of the America COMPETES Act: Why is the passage of a law important? It’s definitely not as “cool” as a flashy new technology solution or high-gloss event, but this event will be a major enabler for Open Gov moving forward. First of all it will enable more agencies to have a strong argument for conducting prizes than ever before and furthermore it demonstrates that Congress is not a staunch opponent of prizes, but instead will permit them. There has been growing support from the executive branch towards prizes, but this demonstration of support from the legislative branch is huge and will result in many more prizes in the years to come.

Challenge.gov: By my count, as of today, there are nearly 100 challenges listed on challenge.gov. This is a huge surge from the launch date for challenge.gov on September 7, 2010. Challenge.gov is a storefront for all government challenges and has two primary benefits: (1) makes it easy for federal agencies to launch challenges and (2) makes it easier for the public to find challenges that interest them; support, share and discuss those that are important to them with friends; and solve them. Like contractors benefit from listing services like FedBizOps to identify opportunities, innovators around the world will benefit from the storefront aspects of challenge.gov.

NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) Initiative: According to the NASA website, “NASA and Harvard University have established the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL), which will enable software developers to compete with each other to create the best computer code for NASA systems. The NTL provides an online virtual facility for NASA researchers with a computational or complex data processing challenge to "order" a solution, just like they would order laboratory tests or supplies.” This initiative builds upon the successes of the NASA topcoder challenges that were kicked off in 2009. The success story here is that the success of a pilot project in 2009 has opened the door to make this type of democratized procurement a part of the way NASA does business.

In the last year we experimented with opening up the grantmaking process to stimulate and leverage private investment and innovation....

Department of Education’s Open Grantmaking Approach: This is truly a one-of-a kind groundbreaking effort in grantmaking. It attempted to create an ecosystem around education grant applications to compliment the limited amount of funding the Department of Education could provide. By creating a space for philanthropists to find unfunded applications they might want to fund or provide the matching funds to, visualizing the data about where grant applications were coming from, and providing a forum for challenges to identify new ideas that could have merit for funding, Ed truly opened our eyes to a new way of doing something the Federal Government has been doing for years. (for more details on this, see a previous jennovation blog posting)

In the last year we shifted a paradigm in how we react and partner in emergencies....

Social Crisis Response: This year we saw the convergence of social media and crisis response and leaders at the highest levels of our government embracing this trend – with people like @CraigAtFEMA leading the way. Just today, the Department of Home Security announced they would be sending terror and alerts via Facebook and Twitter. Why? Because we're looking seriously at the application of these tools to enable our government to be effective in resource allocation - a conversation that is frequently missed. We’re also seeing amazing new apps like firedepartment.mobi that move beyond visualization and 311-type interfaces and has created a new group of citizen first-responders that could saves lives. It perfectly blends social and tech and has real life or death consequences.

I think this tells a pretty great story for Open Gov for the last year—and I continue to be very excited for what the future holds for this initiative. In closing, I want to thank Mike Rupert (@rupertmike), Dan Morgan (@dsmorgan77), and Jerad Speigel (@jspeigel1) for all collaborating on this posting in celebration of the one year anniversary of Agency Open Gov Plans.