The Obama administration wants to know what you think about government transparency. Deputy CTO for Open Government Beth Noveck issued a call for input Wednesday about the government's efforts to make more information available to the public.Noveck and others have entered the second of a three-phase effort to guide policies on transparency, participation, and collaboration. They are encouraging discussion to create a definition of transparency, principles, and priorities.
"While many decisions will not be either/or choices, some tradeoffs will be inevitable," Noveck wrote in a White House blog post. "We need to understand which buckets of principles make sense in a given context. Prioritizing demands understanding what each principle means in practice and then weighing the relative costs and benefits."
She pointed to airline scheduling performance data and said that it may be more important to release accurate information if the goal is for the Federal Aviation Administration to draft informed regulations.
"If the goal is to help travelers make better-informed travel decisions then the information must be comprehensive," she explained. "If transparency serves the goal of enabling companies to build information-related businesses that incorporate on-time data then timeliness is of the essence."
So, agencies will have to weigh competing interests when deciding to release information.
Noveck also said that the administration wants to adopt "crowd-sourcing" to help evaluate data, which should be complete, primary, timely, accessible, machine-processable, non-discriminatory, non-proprietary, and license-free. Finally, she said government agencies should explain all policy decisions and the reasoning behind them in layman's terms.
The administration wants input about costs and benefits, feedback on whether it has overlooked any existing guidance it should heed, and recommendations on putting the principles into practice. Noveck asked for opinions and ideas about how to prioritize and balance the goals of timeliness and accuracy. Finally, she asked for input on whether rules of transparency should be hard and fast and when they should allow for flexibility and entrepreneurship within government agencies.
Readers are invited to register and comment.