Friday, June 12, 2009

US reports on open government brainstorm - do Australians share these views?

The US government has been running an online consultation on the topic of open government via the OpenGov suggestions market.

A summary analysis report on the first stage of the brainstorm has now been released, outlining the main suggestions and topics US citizens found critical for open government.

Some of the highlighted recommendations included,
  • each agency should appoint a senior representative to lead transparency initiatives;

  • government should adopt common data standards;

  • all open meetings should be webcasting;

  • online government services should be made reusable by the private sector - if citizens own the services they should be able to build on top of them;

  • Post all FOIA request responses on the web so everyone, not just the requester, has access and impose penalties on agencies not following FOIA, or creating excessive delays (such as in India where public servants can be fined);

  • Digitize all government research reports and make them available free;

  • Use well-designed feedback systems instead of central control to improve web design;

  • Make government websites mobile platform-ready;

  • Government should communicate a governmentwide strategy for using social media tools to create a more effective and transparent government;

  • Allow government employees to engage in social networking.

I wonder if Australians would have similar views if the Australian government ran a similar consultation.

Here is the complete summary analysis report (PDF)

Also of great interest is the reason the US government used online consultation rather than having internal policy experts develop an open government policy,
Traditionally, proposed policy is crafted by government representatives—who though knowledgeable, do not always have access to the best possible expertise and information—and subsequently posted to invite public comment. The challenge lies in the fact that this process is designed to engender incremental rather than transformational change. Creating a transparent, participatory and collaborative government, however, is a foundational shift, and success requires that we are able to access the best and most creative ideas for accomplishing this goal, wherever they reside.

The vision for this exercise, therefore, is to invert the policymaking process by enabling informed public dialogue to inform policymaking at the front end. The collaborative three-phase process employed opens up tremendous possibilities for real-time innovation. People are invited to:
  1. Brainstorm—share ideas on how to make government more open, participatory and collaborative, discuss and vote on the ideas of others;
  2. Discuss—dig deeper on the ideas and challenges identified during the Brainstorm phase; and
  3. Draft—collaboratively craft constructive recommendations for an Open Government Directive.

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