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Published on September 27th, 2010 | by Editor

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Open Government and Transparency Priorities for the Obama Administration

On January 21, 2009, President Obama issued a Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government. This memorandum outlined three commitments that define this Administration’s approach to governance: (1) government should be transparent; (2) government should be participatory; and (3) government should be collaborative.

The Administration has moved to put these commitments into practice, with impressive results. Some examples:

• By experimenting with prizes and challenges and new technologies, and by issuing new guidance to facilitate use of social media, we are finding fresh ways to tap the diverse expertise of people inside and outside of government. A successful example is the SAVE (Securing Americans’ Value and Efficiency) Award, which allowed Federal employees to submit ideas on how to make government more efficient and effective. (The first SAVE Award produced more than 38,000 proposals, many of which are being implemented.) The Administration has also launched Challenge.gov to enable all government agencies to tap the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of the American people and collaborate to solve our nation’s problems.

• The White House has established a clear presumption in favor of openness by posting visitor records, staff financial disclosures, salaries, and ethics waivers on the White House website for the first time and by reversing prior limits on access to presidential records and ordering Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reform. The Department of Justice’s FOIA dashboard will enable users to assess FOIA compliance across 92 Federal agencies and over time. We are also holding ourselves accountable by putting Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA), Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), and stimulus lobbying records online.
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In his speech of September 23, 2010 to the United Nations General Assembly, the President recognized that, in all corners of the globe, countries are taking unprecedented steps to make government more open and accountable. President Obama challenged those in attendance to build on this progress. He invited Leaders to join him next year in making specific commitments to promote transparency, fight corruption, energize civic engagement, and leverage new technologies to strengthen the foundations of open government.

Some governments may guarantee access to information as a fundamental right and commit to new efforts to put information in the hands of citizens. Others may empower constituents to track the assets of public officials. Countries may identify new ways of seeking the views of the public to improve the quality of our decision-making and the efficacy of our investments. Others may propose innovative approaches to tapping the expertise of the private and non-governmental sectors in solving complex problems.

While the individual commitments will differ, the collective force of a global effort will signal our resolve to transform the way we govern, empower citizens, and restore the frayed social contract between citizens and their leaders.

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