An innovative White House attempt to engage the interested public in the development of government policy on openness and transparency is moving briskly and, so far, productively.
An initial online brainstorming session attracted over 98,000 visits and generated some 2,450 “ideas” for increasing public access to government information, over 11,000 comments on those ideas, and over 200,000 votes in favor or against them. The process threatened to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of proposals, not all of which were clearly focused or formulated, and some of which were eccentric or irrelevant (legalize marijuana!). But the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy team that is managing the process was able to distill the best suggestions into a substantive but digestible core.
The next step is an online discussion of the particular proposals that is intended to flesh them out and to convert “lofty principles into specific actions” that the executive could take, said Dr. Beth Noveck, the OSTP Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government. Interested members of the public are invited and encouraged to participate in the process. To catch up on the latest developments, see the OSTP Open Government blog.
Other White House efforts to address overclassification and the spread of official controls on unclassified information have received a less enthusiastic reception. Critics (including Secrecy News) expressed concern that these initiatives may be insufficiently ambitious in conception and that they provide no formal mechanism for public input. See “Critics Blast Obama Classification Review” by Justin Rood, ABC News The Blotter, June 3, 2009.