NRC leads cultural shift towards transparency

Thursday - 7/22/2010, 10:31am EDT

Darren Ash, CIO, NRC

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By Rachel Stevens
Federal News Radio

As federal agencies work to meet with President Obama's Open Government Initiative, Darren Ash says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been dedicated to transparency for over 30 years.

"Our culture has been like this for many, many years. Probably since its inception," he tells Federal News Radio at the 2010 Excellence in Government Conference.

Ash is the NRC's Chief Information Officer and Executive Director for Corporate Management. Although open government is not a new idea to NRC, Ash says the Commission is working to become even more transparent. And he offers some guidance to other agencies looking to follow suit.

Old-fashioned public meetings are still paramount, Ash says. But he adds that modern technologies like web streaming make it possible to share these meetings with broader audiences.

This is an area NRC has been working on. Ash says expanding its web streaming, improving its website, and pushing data out to the public more quickly are major areas of focus.

Data can't contribute to transparency if it's confusing or inaccessible to the public, though. That's why Ash says NRC is working on publishing its information in more user-friendly ways.

"Make it in a form that's more readable," he says.

The overall most important thing, Ash says, is to realize that open government begins with small steps.

"Culture is not something you can change overnight," he says. "Recognize that change is important; take one step at a time. I think a lot of it comes back to leadership. Demonstrating that openness and transparency are important, walking the walk."

Ash says leaders should listen to everyone possible, from their staff to the public. And then, he says, they should take tangible steps to act on this feedback.

He calls this a "simple thing" that can be crucial to fostering a culture of transparency.

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Rachel Stevens is an intern with Federal News Radio.