In a speech to an annual National Archives and Records Administration conference, Beth Noveck, deputy CTO of the open government initiative at the Office of Science and Technology, asserted that the Obama administration continues to make strides toward opening up the government's data and operations to public scrutiny.
"If we have the platforms, if we have the technology, marry it to a process that allows people to contribute their ideas or expertise, and marry that to laws that say it is OK, the hope is we can actually lead to and create a more open government," she said.
Just yesterday, for example, President Obama issued a memo requesting a study to reassess the use of classified documents, which grew substantially under George W. Bush. "A democratic government must be as transparent as possible and must not withhold information for self-serving reasons or simply to avoid embarrassment," he said in that memo.
Last week, the administration launched Data.gov, a collection of data sets and tools to help people use that data, like a mobile application to let people check the on-time arrival records of certain flights. She said that one of the rationales for launching Data.gov as a central repository was so that transparency "can't be put back in the bottle" by future administrations.
"We don't have to put everything on our Web sites, but we have to make sure that data is available on our Web sites so people can turn it into something that's meaningful and useful to them," Noveck said. For example, she pointed to the endless possibilities of new types of data visualizations.
She also mentioned a site launched earlier this month, Regulations.gov Exchange, which asks for public comments on federal rulemaking, and said that the Obama administration was looking for ways to get the public more engaged in the rulemaking process, including the use of social media tools. "There's someone who's interested in every rule," she said. "We in Washington do not hold all the best ideas, and when we are transparent, we need to do so in a way that allows us to hear back from [the public]."
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