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2/8/2010
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Open Government Dashboard, Agency Sites Launched

While most federal agencies are meeting Open Government Directive milestones, the information on the sites diverges widely, and the public isn't participating much just yet.

The federal government last Friday passed the most recent deadline for the Open Government Directive, and so far, agencies and the White House appear to be keeping pace.

On Friday, all major agencies were due to have their open government Web sites online. A quick check of the White House's new open government dashboard, also launched Friday, shows that every major agency has now done just that.

Though those agencies -- including the Department of Defense, but not the intelligence community -- now have their own open government Web sites, they diverge widely in terms of content.

Some, like the Social Security Administration's, are threadbare, laying out basic, broad thoughts about open government and linking the public to Social Security datasets, press releases, and a few agency reports.

Others, like the Department of Transportation's, which was posted weeks ahead of Friday's deadline, contain very detailed preliminary plans. Transportation has laid out a preliminary "Open Government Framework" that details which parts of the agency are responsible for different parts of the technology, policy, and culture aspects of the open government directive. Transportation's Web site also details general proposed content of its open government plan and includes links to third-party news stories about open government.

Several agencies' open government Web sites, among them NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security -- include prominent buttons asking the public to submit their own ideas about how they can be more open. Many also link to Freedom of Information Act requests fulfilled by the agencies, list officials at the agency working on open government, and have timelines or their own dashboards detailing when and how they have met and are meeting administration deadlines for open government.

Most sites ask the public for input via comments to blogs and a link to crowdsourcing sites. However, so far, it seems as though the public hasn't jumped on board much to help out. On the agencies' Ideascale crowdsourcing sites, where the public can recommend open government ideas, few suggestions are coming in. The Department of Defense, for example, has garnered a total of three ideas; the Small Business Administration two (both by the site's moderator); and the National Science Foundation four (also all by the site's moderator). Meanwhile, a Department of Health and Human Services blog has seen zero comments

The White House's open government dashboard is still in early stages of its evolution. Today, the dashboard shows only whether each agency meets, is progressing toward, or fails to meet White House expectations in regards to a few of the deadlines laid out by the administration's Open Government Directive. However, federal CTO Aneesh Chopra has said that, going forward, the dashboard will take on a more in-depth, less "compliance" approach to measuring open government.

According to the dashboard, most agencies have fully met expectations thus far, but a few -- the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Office of Personnel Management, the Council on Environmental Quality, and the Office of the United States Trade Representative -- are slightly behind, having registered less than three "high-value" data sets on Data.gov or having assigned only a non-senior official to oversee data integrity issues at the agency.

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