DorobekInsider.com: Team Obama puts out the help wanted sign for Recovery.gov transparency ideas

Wednesday - 4/22/2009, 4:25am EDT

One of the more vexing issues right now is transparency and the recovery program, and I keep pointing out that this is all unprecedented. There has arguably never been this level of transparency on this scale done this quickly… and I would argue that this is unprecedented in the private sector as well. That being said, it is also critically important. And the team working on the administration’s recovery plan understand that.

I mentioned back in March that the Obama administration was trying to get some transparency around the stimulus transparency initiative by, at least initiatially, reaching out to feds. And they used an existing tool — OMB’s MAX federal community wiki. (If you don’t know about the MAX federal community, the National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration Project has a case study on it here … and last year when I was at Federal Computer Week, we highlighted it as a case study in collaboration.)

The administration was quickly chided — somewhat unfairly — for being transparent in a way that wasn’t publicly available. In my conversations with people, what they were trying to do was to use the tools that they had and the plan has always been to reach out in additional ways. And I have been hearing parts of those plans, but we’re getting the first official look at them on Recovery.gov’s home page … and on Facebook… on Twitter … and below…

The administration is turning to the National Academy of Public Administration , which has been way out front on collaboration issues with its with its Collaboration Project, to create a public “dialogue” as a way of eliciting ideas from the public and from industry.

For one week beginning April 27th, The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board and the Office of Management and Budget in partnership with the National Academy of Public Administration, will host a national online dialogue to engage leading information technology vendors, thinkers, and consumers in answering a key question:

What ideas, tools, and approaches can make Recovery.gov a place where all citizens can transparently monitor the expenditure and use of recovery funds?

Participants from across the IT community will be able to recommend, discuss, and vote on the best ideas, tools, and approaches. Your ideas can directly impact how Recovery.gov operates and ensure that our economic recovery is the most transparent and accountable in history.

This is similar to the National Dialogue on Health IT and Privacy that the National Academy held last year. Back in October, I suggested that the concept was worth watching … and on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we had the National Academy’s Lena Trudeau on several times to talk about it. Hear an early one here [.mp3] … or her most recent one here talking about their report assessing the National Dialogue tool.

One of the big industry concerns was whether “transparency” means that they will have to surrender proprietary information. Frankly, if they do, they will not participate. And I believe that the organizers have considered that and they have devised a plan that allows a public description with additional follow-up data available for consideration purposes. That being said, this is a big issue for industry and some companies will be reluctant to participate if it means the loss of their intellectual property.

That being said, this seems like an important opportunity… and I’ll be fascinated to see what evolves from this dialogue.