2010 and Beyond: Open gov gains footing

Tuesday - 12/14/2010, 6:10pm EST

Aneesh Chopra, Chief Technology Officer

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If 2009 was the year of building the policies for open government, then 2010 was "the year of execution," said Aneesh Chopra, the federal government's chief technology officer.

Chopra told the DorobekINSIDER that his top story of the year was the government's shift to an open government culture.

One year after President Obama's directive for government to be more transparent, agencies are using the mandate as a "key pillar" in their work, Chopra said.

"All have demonstrated results in fostering ecosystems to not only publish the data but to do something meaningful with it," he said.

Open gov helps federal employees do their jobs better, like processing grants faster or better managing audits, Chopra said. But more than that, transparency is advancing agencies' mission objectives, he said.

This year the government has sought to create a greater focus on innovation, Chopra said. The return on investment from innovation is evident in collaborations with the private sector, as well as creating open standards activities, he said.

Ideas have come both from top-down and grassroots innovation, Chopra said. Platforms like www.data.gov and www.challenge.gov are results of policy decisions. But agencies are soliciting ideas from employees as well. For example, the Department of Education now publishes its i3 grant winners to help publicize the winners for private grants, Chopra said.

One of the tensions in open government -- particularly in the age of WikiLeaks -- is striking the balance between openness on the one hand and privacy and security on the other. Chopra said information must pass layers of built-in reviews before it becomes public, and the same "vetting process" applies to security.

"That was one key tension that surfaced with the directive," Chopra said.

Where the open government initiative has fallen short is in "kindling that entrepreneurial spirit in the American people in a scale that is appropriate for the country," Chopra said. This challenge goes beyond technology or policies, he said.

"It's really a mindset of about how the American people think about their government moving forward," Chopra said. He added that 2011, then, will be the year of public engagement.

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Click here to see all the stories in the '2010 and Beyond' series.