Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Transparency Advocates React to U.S. Open Government Action Plan

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, September 20 2011

President Barack Obama on Tuesday led the public unveiling of national open government action plans from the eight countries participating in the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral coalition on openness and transparency.

"Put simply, our countries are stronger when we engage citizens beyond the halls of government," Obama said at an event held at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

The White House is advancing commitments around online disclosures for extractive industries, increased whistleblower protections, and the upcoming launch of an online e-petitioning platform as the highlights of its plan. But the U.S.' open government commitments were one set among many, which included promises to expand the use of participatory budgeting, in which citizens gain a direct role in deciding how to spend discretionary funding (from the Phillipines); public reporting of felony crime (in Mexico); and strengthening the role of women in government, the economy and civic life (from Norway).

Open government watchdogs have responded to the U.S. plan with optimism. In a blog post, OMBWatch called the plan "bold" and "ambitious."

"The Administration, in a relatively short-time frame, crafted an agenda for its open government work that is impressive in its scope and breadth. We are pleased to see the plan includes several items of high-priority to the open government community, and look forward to working with the White House and others to ensure the promise becomes a reality," OpenTheGovernment.org quoted its founder Patrice McDermott as saying on its website.

McDermott also called for the process of opening the government to be more, well, open, reiterating her call for a presidential advisory committee on the subject.

John Wonderlich, from the Sunlight Foundation*, wrote to me in an email that he thought the plan was more ambitious than he had initially hoped — but cautioned that how the White House makes good on its promises, which also included a pledge to professionalize the group responsible for processing Freedom of Information Act Requests, remains to be seen.

In short, advocates are satisfied with the administration's work — for now. One advocate at an OGP event at Google on Tuesday told me that the focus for the day would be applauding what the White House has done — with a mind to returning to nudging it again later.

"Let them have their day," this person said.

(Personal Democracy Forum's Micah Sifry and Andrew Rasiej are senior advisers to the Sunlight Foundation.)

News Briefs

RSS Feed thursday >

Beyond @Congressedits, Capitol Hill Looks for Entry to Wikipedia

As he recently told techPresident, the creator of Congressedits did not aim to make Members of Congress look bad, but said he hoped that they would recognize the importance of Wikipedia as a public space and engage more with its community. "If staffers and politicians identified as Wikipedians, that would be super. You could imagine politicians' home pages with a list of their recent edits, that they would be proud of the things that they are doing." On Capitol Hill, there is in fact interest in making that vision a reality, starting off with an initial conversation that could create a framework for more Wikipedians in Congress. GO

wednesday >

In the Philippines, Citizens Go Undercover With Bantay to Monitor Public Offices

The Philippines, a country of almost 100 million, is considered among the most corrupt country in Southeast Asia, despite a boost in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index in the past few years (from 134th in 2010 to 94th in 2013 out of 175.) Corruption involves all levels of government, but benefits also from a mindset of tolerance, says Happy Feraren, the co-founder of Bantay.ph, an anti-corruption educational initiative that teaches citizens how to monitor the quality of government services, sometimes by going undercover. GO

More