Obama’s National Action Plan Brings Need For Open Government to the National Stage

By: Ben Butterworth

In early 2009, President Obama released a Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government in which he called for “a system with transparency, public participation, and collaboration.” Since then the Obama administration has worked toward creating transparency and open government.

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On Tuesday, President Obama announced the United States National Action Plan for Open Government (“National Plan”) is another step toward President Obama fulfilling his promise of a more transparent, open government. You can read his remarks here. The National Plan’s focus on direct citizen participation in government is great news for us here at Reset San Francisco – die-hard advocates of the Gov 2.0 movement.

Obama is Building National Momentum for Government Transparency

The National Action Plan for Open Government dates back to September 2010 when Obama challenged members of the United Nations General Assembly to work together to make all governments more accountable to their citizens. In July of this year, the United States and Brazil created an Open Government Partnership (OGP) – a global initiative with the goal of promoting more transparent, effective and accountable governments around the world. The National Plan builds on steps the Obama administration has taken since they took office to strengthen democracy and make government more efficient, effective and transparent through greater openness.

Gov 2.0 Means Giving People An Opportunity to Make Their Voices Heard

One highlight of the National Plan includes the launch of the We The People platform on WhiteHouse.gov, where citizens will have access to a new way to create, share and sign petitions that communicate their views about government’s actions and policies. And perhaps most importantly, it urges the community to organize their friends and neighbors around an important issue (since petitions with 5,000 signatures in 30 days will be reviewed by White House staff).

The National Plan also promises to continue working on legislation to increase whistleblower protection and increase protections for employees in the intelligence community. Other included initiatives emphasize the important and expanding role of technology in open government. Efforts, like the public participation on regulations.gov, will be overhauled in order to help the public find, follow and participate in federal law making. The National Plan also includes the launch of ExpertNet – a wikispaces platform to communicate with citizens who have expertise on a relevant topic.

The Obama administration echoes what we’ve been discussing here at Reset San Franciscouser-generated government and providing direct lines of communication between citizens and government so the voice of all people can be heard.

Shouldn’t San Francisco Lead The Way?

If more open government is in the future at a national level, then we should strive to make it more of a reality in San Francisco – one of the most plugged in, tech-savvy cities in the world. And perhaps participatory democracy would be more effective at the local level. Shouldn’t San Francisco lead the way? What do you think, San Francisco?


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