I love the Open Government Memo, I think it represents some of the most thoughtful and seminal policy strategy Iâ€™ve seen in 20 years in government. I don’t know who actually wrote it for the President, but I think that person should get a medal. And whoever reads it and doesnâ€™t find inspiration for technology’s potential role towards advancing the ideals of our democracy is simply missing out.
I was honored this week to be invited to testify before the Senate Government Affairs Sub Committee hearing entitled, “Removing the Shroud of Secrecy: Making Government More Transparent and Accountable“. A first panel of government leaders including Vivek Kundra, Aneesh Chopra and US Archivist David Ferriero were invited to discuss progress on Open Government. A second panel of industry and advocacy experts including representatives from the Sunlight Foundation, the National Security Archive and Meritalk Online (and Adobe) were also invited, although our testimony was cut short by procedural maneuvers relevant to the health care debate occurring on the Senate Floor. For the two and half hours we were there, Senators Carper and Coburn participated fully. The hearing may be rescheduled to complete the witness testimony, but in the interim, two things were very clear to me: we have come a long way in recent years but the Open Government movement is still missing critical agents of change in government.
I was recently interviewed on Federal News Radio on their In-Depth with Francis Rose program, where I had the opportunity to discuss open government. We discussed the idea that technology should be viewed as a â€œvehicleâ€ rather than a â€œdestination” and that the real role of technology in open government is that of an enabler of mission success.
Iâ€™m finding more and more that these conversations are evolving beyond discussions about government data publication to a focus on how technology, information and behavior can open up government and make it more effective for people who are at risk or in need.
Despite contemporary wisdom that traditional journalism is in decline, the 150+ year-old publication known as The Atlantic hasn’t lost its edge for writing substantive and thoughtful news commentary. I love this month’s article, Management Secrets of the Grateful Dead, where Joshua Green argues that the Grateful Dead pioneered Internet business models before there was an Internet.
If you are interested in understanding how open and collaborative communities form across distances, look to the legions of Deadheads who connected, followed and enabled one of the most culturally and financially successful bands in history. The Grateful Dead gave their music away for free and it elevated demand, innovation and participation.
This same phenomenon is what the Obama Administration is striving for with open government – give the data away freely and allow innovation and participation to follow.