Obama White House Talks Tech in Open Government Initiatives

White House press release posted last month celebrated the third anniversary of the day President Obama joined the leaders of seven other nations to launch the Open Government Partnership (OGP) with four new open government initiatives. The OGP is an international coalition dedicated to promoting transparency and civic engagement. It also strives to use new technologies to aid in the improvement of open government.

The last point makes a lot of sense – better technology, better transparency. Here are just a few ways that the Obama Whitehouse is using tech to spread a little FOI sunshine:

  1. Promoting Open Education through an online skills academy – The Whitehouse press release announced a planned 2015 launch of an online site that will offer open online study courses that should ultimately lead to degrees and other credentials for users. Free or low-cost access to education is a great step forward.
  2. Using open source software – By the end of 2015, the Administration is hoping to launch a policy of working through open source software. Open source software “can fuel innovation, lower costs, and benefit the public” according to the Whitehouse announcement. Collaboration can produce some of the most effective code.
  3. Recruiting top IT talent – Government departments like GSA’s 18F need quality IT talent to move forward and stay innovative. The Administration is pulling best practices from public and private sectors to create a better public user experience.
  4. Publishing best practices and getting public feedback – Along with open source software, the Administration is touting the publication of the recent “Digital Services Playbook” and future additional best practice documents. Posting these IT best practices and allowing the public to suggest improvements not only improves transparency, but can lead to better tech methods.
  5. Updating the U.S. spending website – Next year, the Administration plans to launch an updated usaspending.govwebsite that will better allow users to access information and improve user experience.

The U.S. government is not necessarily best known for being cutting edge as far as technology is concerned, but it is great to see the Obama administration putting in a strong effort to improve their tech chops. Now imagine if they got their FOIA tracking and processing in tip-top shape. That should lead to some great transparency improvements.