Aneesh Chopra, the Obama administration’s Chief Technology Officer, and its CIO Vivek Kundra unveiled on February 9 what the pair call Version 1.0 of the “Open Government Dashboard". This announcement is a follow-on to the December 9, 2009 “Open Government Directive,” which—if I followed the manifesto trail and timeline correctly—is being worked on by a committee called the “Open Government Working Group” formed on January 22, 2010 and which is trying to adhere to the “Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government,” issued a year earlier when President Obama was inaugurated.
This is not a red/yellow/green-light dashboard as I understand the term (that is, it is not an applet that I could put on my desktop and that constantly updates itself as the U.S. executive-branch bureaucracy becomes more open or more closed). Instead it is a website where I can go to see how the administration is doing against its open-government goals.
What does the dashboard/website say? Amazingly, the federal executive-branch bureaucracy is doing incredibly well in being open. Implicit in all the year-long hoopla was the idea that the federal bureacracy was not open in the past. But in fact openness has been the law for a half century. What this is really all about is getting existing law reflected on the web.
In fact, based on the dashboard, I would almost say the administration has nowhere to go but down. It’s one brokered backroom deal away from losing ground. At this point, none of the more than two dozen groups being monitored is failing to meet expectations. Except for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Office of Personnel Management, the Council on Environmental Quality, and the Office of the Trade Representative, all “lights” are green. The major “flashing yellow” for the watch-list four is that they do not yet provide at least three high-value data sets. (I’m not sure I want the Nuclear Regulatory Committee to meet that standard anyways.)
Aside: Just to be clear to readers from outside the U.S, we have three branches of government in the U.S. federal government and the only group that the executive branch of the U.S. federal government can control is its third. In addition we have over 50 independent states, territories and Commonwealths and from scores to hundreds of separate jurisdictions within each. All of the states and territories also have three branches as do many of the local jurisdictions. So everywhere it says “government” in anything you read about "open government" from the Obama administration, substitute “executive branch of the U.S. federal government”
This sidelight is especially important because here in the Commonwelath of Massachusetts we also have three branches of government, yet when one small group within one part of one branch of that government allegedly illegally tried to impose Sun's ODF on its users a few years ago, the IT blogosphere incorrectly reported that "Massachusetts chose ODF."
-- Dennis Byron