[Video intro ends at 52 seconds; Intro by Dr. Gref ends at 2'18; Speech ends at 11'15; then Q&A]
These remarks have been edited from a 9-minute speech made in Moscow on November 12, 2011 at the 170th anniversary of Sperbank, Russia's largest and oldest financial institution. Speakers at this panel were introduced by Dr. Hermann Gref (CEO and Chairman of the Board, Sperbank, and former Russian Minister of Economic Development and Trade) and included Vladimir Putin, Prof. Jeff Howe (Northeastern), Prof. Tom Malone (MIT) and Dr. Paul Saffo (Managing Director of Foresight, Discern Analytics), Patrick Howard (Vice-President and Global Cloud Leader, IBM Global Business Services) and Klaus Kleinfeld (CEO and Chairman of the Board, Alcoa).
For Prime Minister Putin's presentation, click here.
We’ve heard today that as individuals we are smarter collaborating together than working alone. That is as true for institutions as it is for individuals. We are also smarter working across the boundaries of institutions with groups and individuals outside the walls of a single organization.
Collaboration makes businesses more successful. After all, Sberbank made $30 billion rubles ($1 billion U.S. dollars) as a result of its recent crowdsourcing experiments. But how do we, practically speaking, use technology and these collaborative processes to marry the chaotic success of Wikipedia to the hierarchical institutions of governance and government at the national and local level?
To do so, we have three challenges we must first overcome:
1. Serious Problems: The problems governments face are serious and complex. We live in a world with 7 billion people and soon we’ll live in a world with 10 billion people, 40% of whom will not have access to healthcare, clean water, or basic education. The breakup of the Eurozone is not the same as the Eurovision song contest. Are these kind of contests too frivolous to address the problems we face?
2. Declining Legitimacy: Globally, trust in government institutions is declining. We only need to witness the Arab Spring or the Occupy Wall Street movement. In the United States, by some measures trust in government is at an all time low of 9%. Government has to act with legitimacy. It has to engender trust. It has to have stability in its decision making. Is trying to connect the pulsing, vibrant network to the institution too experimental, too radical for government?
3. Too Costly: Finally, are these techniques too novel for government? It might be nice to have, but is crowdsourcing a must-have that is worth the investment of time and money?
I would argue that collaboration is more important for government than for business in these very tough economic times, because it enables government to deliver better services for less money and more democratically.
First, crowdsourcing is a serious solution to serious problems.
1. Saving Money: Twenty nations, and countless states and local governments, have created and launched national data portals to put out spending data. With information about how government spends money, citizens can crowdsource the development of solutions to spot fraud and waste, such as sophisticated models, visualizations, and predictions. But what they can also do, as in happened in the state of Rajasthan, India, is crowdsource the reading of that data in the town square and the writing of that data on one hundred thousand walls of villages, so people can then identify paychecks that have been written to someone who has died or bridges that were never built when the government claimed that they were.
2. Spotting problems: There are local platforms like See Click Fix, in use now in seventy governments across six continents, that allow for distributed problem spotting. Identifying red lights that are out at intersections or potholes in the street allows government to target the delivery of services more effectively and more cheaply.
3. Innovating Solutions: But crowdsourcing also allows for innovating solutions and not just the spotting of problems. The Department of Defense has used crowdsourcing to design a new combat vehicle. And they got it done not in years, not in months, but with 159 competitive, serious submissions obtained in a matter of weeks. How did this work? The Obama administration’s Open Government Initiative created a single platform called Challenge.gov that makes it simple and easy for every ministry to post a challenge and ask people not simply to suggest ideas but to develop solutions. Our Office initially helped ministries to frame the question, to pick the judges, and to identify their goals. Initially we provided some support centrally to educate the lawyers and the ministries to say “you too can do this,” or “it’s okay to do this.” But very quickly we put ourselves out of business because the ministries began to talk to each other. Now there is an effective community of practice with at least sixty agencies who communicate about the challenges they’ve created, the successes they’ve had, and they have learned from their experience putting these challenges on the web through this single, free platform.
Second, designed right, these are not experimental projects.
Previously, I had some experience creating a platform called Peer to Patent, in which we connected volunteer scientists and technologists to the national patent offices. The program, began in the US, then expanded to the UK, Japan, and Australia. This is is a structured, targeted process that uses rating and ranking - thumbs up and thumbs down - to deliver to the government official not ten thousand suggestions, not one hundred suggestions, but ten pieces of information that will help to inform his or her ultimate decision about the application that deserves a patent. I describe this at length in my book, Wiki Government.
This week, the British Prime Minister announced a new initiative to crowdsource the identification of regulations that are impeding and hindering entrepreneurship of new businesses. But he’s not just asking for those thousand ideas, he’s offering a process to ask the crowd to then help implement those suggestions and gather the data that’s necessary, so that crowdsourcing doesn’t create more work for government officials. It helps them in making their decisions.
Third, innovative solutions such as crowdsourcing are a must have, not just a nice to have. The tools to crowdsource are free or nearly free and the solutions are generated quickly. It makes government cheaper, smarter, and more effective.
In the Department of Veteran Affairs in the United States, the agency asked the nineteen thousand employees for a solution to the problem of how to bring down the wait time for veterans coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq to receive services that are owed to them. The time was reduced from more than a year to now only to a few weeks. It took only one person in the ministry, part time, to run a project that generated involvement from seven thousand employees in the first month alone.
There’s a town in California that just launched an iPhone app that manages a network of trained volunteers who respond when someone has a heart attack but before the ambulance can arrive. This saves lives at no extra cost.
The Latvian Parliament is working with Latvia’s banks to authenticate citizens identities in order to crowdsource the development of new legislation. The legislation is shaped by citizens, who are advised by a network of voluntary experts before the legislation is implemented.
And we’ve heard from the Prime Minister that here members of the public in Russia are helping to rewrite new laws, like a law on fisheries, and working together to supplement official government efforts by providing aid and assistance during the devastating fires that rampaged Moscow last year.
So let me close by saying that we have the means to engage more people in the life of their democracy.
This is not about the technology. That’s free.
It’s about asking questions. It’s about a willingness to ask and to create engaging and accessible opportunities for people to participate. But it’s not the same ad voting. It’s not about creating a single mass process that’s one size fits all. What’s required is crowdsourcing wisely, not crowdsourcing widely: developing many different, small ways for people to lend their expertise, their experience, and their enthusiasm for the public good whether it’s about patents or fish, veterans or potholes.
Churchill said, “democracy is the worst form of government except all others.” But we can do better. And thanks to the techniques that we’ve heard about today, we have the experience to make institutions of our democracy more effective and more participatory. Not just in principle, but in practice. Thomas Jefferson said we can “mak[e] every citizen an acting member of the government in the offices nearest and most interesting to him.” This in turn, Jefferson went on to say, “attaches him by the strongest feelings to the independence of the country and it’s Republican Constitution.”
Thank you and happy birthday.
Network technology has irrevocably changed campaigning and elections. It has the potential to transform governance and the workings of our democracy for the better. These improvements, however, have been slow in coming. Innovations in governance have been thwarted by politics as usual and resistance to devolution of power away from hierarchical bureaucracy to networks of diverse, public participants. In Tripoli, Tottenham or Wall Street people have been protesting failed policies and a lack of opportunity to participate in elections once every two or four years. Whether in failed states or old democracies, most simply want a state that works. But they have lost faith in government and other centralized institutions of power. For example, just eleven percent of Americans polled express optimism about the future of the United States government. Churchill was fond of saying that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others, but by democracy he surely meant something better than this.
Democratic elections alone do not remedy the crisis of confidence in government. Moreover, there is no viable justification for a democratic system in which public participation is limited to voting. We live in a world in which ordinary people write Wikipedia, the most comprehensive and highest quality global encyclopedia; spend their evenings moving a telescope via the Internet and making discoveries half a world away; get online to help organize a protest in cyberspace and in the physical world, such as the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia or the demonstrations of the ‘indignados’ throughout Spain; or pore over purloined State Department cables.
The same technologies enabling us to work together at a distance are creating the expectation to do better at governing ourselves. But to achieve the twin goals of more participatory and effective governance, we must innovate in how we govern. Thanks to technology, if we have the will to do so, we also now have the opportunity.
Continue Reading Evolving Democracy (Download Evolving Democracy). Approx 10 pages.
 New Poll Finds Deep Distrust of Government, New York Times, October 25, 2011 (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/26/us/politics/poll-finds-anxiety-on-the-economy-fuels-volatility-in-the-2012-race.html).
 Sir Winston Churchill, Speech Before the House of Commons, Hansard, November 11, 1947 (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1947/nov/11/parliament-bill#column_206).
credit: John Klossner, Federal Computer Week. Originally printed here.
The following post is a new and improved version of What's in a Name: Good Gov and Open Gov recently posted on HuffPo:
Recently the White House launched a new website about Good Government at www.whitehouse.gov/goodgovernment.
The name change appears to be responding to the demands of major watchdog groups, who want "accountability data," including information about government spending and the workings of political officials, such as salaries, travel and meeting schedules of cabinet secretaries.
The problem with aligning the White House's goals to a traditional reform agenda is not only having to endure Jon Stewart's scathing yet humorous attacks on any failures to deliver (no government can ever be transparent enough), but that the White House Open Government Initiative that I directed and the Open Government Directive instructing agencies to adopt open government were never exclusively about making transparent information about the workings of government.
Open government is an innovative strategy for changing how government works. By using network technology to connect the public to government and to one another informed by open data, an open government asks for help with solving problems. The end result is more effective institutions and more robust democracy.
Putting a cabinet secretary's schedule, for example, up online does little to produce greater accountability or better government. At least there's no empirical evidence to suggest that it does. By contrast, when HHS makes hundreds of datasets about health and wellness available online and invites .orgs and .coms to transform that data into tools that help individuals, institutions and communities make smarter decisions that improve the quality and reduce the cost of healthcare, government is partnering with the public to solve problems more collaboratively. The public isn't simply accepting the solution that government comes up with but creating new services and solutions. I've written earlier about how this kind of co-creation makes government institutions work better, creates jobs and economic growth, and engages people in governance.
Agencies across the executive branch have been working to adopt the practices of open innovation -- namely creating more collaborative strategies for working with the public, informed by open data about everything from bridge safety to air quality, to achieve their core mission better.
The aim of open government is to take advantage of the know-how and entrepreneurial spirit of those outside government institutions to work together with those inside government to solve problems. For example, whereas we must know about radiation levels from Japan and oil contamination in the Gulf and cost overuns in the public sector, most important is that government invite "all hands on deck" to develop innovative solutions to crises such as these--solutions that government doesn't always readily devise on its own.
So if open gov is a confusing name why did we name it the White House Open Government Initiative?
Two years ago I published a book called Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful. In it, I advocate the principle of collaborative democracy that emphasizes the ability of ordinary people using network technology to do extraordinary things by working together for the public good. Collaborative democracy is an answer to those who think that the public is only capable of voting once every four years and who ignore citizen coders who redesign the Federal Register and create useful apps for better healthcare; citizen activists who build a powerful first responder network; citizen scientists who solve scientific challenges; and citizen archivists who improve government recordkeeping.
When I had the opportunity to work with colleagues on turning collaborative governance into a national agenda for the Obama Campaign, Obama-Biden Transition and then in the White House, I didn't want to name our White House project in a way that could be construed as promoting my book. Collaboration: out. Wiki Gov: out.
Gov 2.0 is a popular term but puts the emphasis on technology when our goal was to focus on changing how government institutions work for the better. Our work was not limited to doing the cool stuff of Silicon Valley in the staid world of Washington. Technology is only one means to the end of changing how we work—of finding practical ways to take advantage of the intelligence, skills and expertise of others. And, besides, it was a brand already in widespread commercial use. For purposes of use in the White House, anything 2.0: out.
Open gov was actually a shorthand for open innovation or the idea that working in a transparent, participatory, and collaborative fashion helps improve performance, inform decisionmaking, encourage entrepreneurship, and solve problems more effectively. By working together as team with government in productive fashion, the public can then also help to foster accountability.
In retrospect, "open government" was a bad choice. It has generated too much confusion. Many people, even in the White House, still assume that open government means transparency about government. But through it's repeated use to describe the transformational work underway in governments around the world, especially in the federal agencies in the US, we can rescue the term and clarify its original meaning.
The unveiling of the Good Government website brings into stark relief two (not the only two, by any means) different approaches to making government more effective: Good Government reformers who focus on a certain kind of transparency and the Open Government innovators who focus on collaboration informed by data.
The reformer wants more information about how government functions. For example, he demands to see the travel schedule of the Cabinet Secretary. When he doesn't get it, he sues. When he does, he works with the media to make sense of it and point out fraud, waste and abuse.
The innovator recognizes that the public schedule provides little insight into how power is wielded. Instead, he wants the Cabinet Secretary to use network technology to invite the public to identify creative solutions to the problems he's going to discuss on those trips. Therefore the innovator also needs a broader kind of data about health, education, or the economy so that she can engage in informed collaboration. She doesn't have to sue for the data because the agency knows that with the information in hand, the innovator is going to build productive tools, apps and visualizations to transform that data into useful knowledge.
Unless we think that government has all the answers (and not many Americans think it does), we need to create more participatory institutions.
There's a happy ending to this story. At the same time as the White House launched the Good Government brand, it also hired a phenomenal United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Public Sector Innovation, Chris Vein (former CIO of San Francisco).
By dividing the world into Good Government and Public Sector Innovation, the White House may be well-poised to work with both the reformers and the innovators to pursue accountable and participatory government.
Just as what we used to call e-commerce is now just commerce, if eventually government works with citizens to address challenges, it won't matter if we talk about government open gov, good gov, e-gov, or wegov. We will simply enjoy functioning, legitimate -- Government.
TESTIMONY OF DR. BETH S. NOVECK
HEARING OF THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION, PRIVACY, AND ETHICS HOUSE OF COMMONS CANADA
MARCH 2, 2011
[This is the version as delivered.]
Chairman Murphy and Members of the Committee:
Thank you for the honor of appearing before you today.
By way of background, I served for two years as the United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government and led the White House Open Government Initiative. I am also a law professor at New York Law School where my research focuses on the impact of new technology on legal and political institutions.
You have asked me to join you today to reflect about the meaning and value of open government and to share some insights about creating an open government culture in practice. The views represented in this testimony are entirely my own and are not intended to represent official United States government positions.
I would like to tell you briefly about the White House Open Government Initiative and what we did to begin the process of changing the culture of government. I will then share ten principles for designing open government institutions and conclude with a few thoughts about open data. But first let me begin by laying out why I believe open government matters.
Open government goes far beyond transparency. Opening up how institutions work to enable greater collaboration – open innovation - affords the opportunity to use network technology to discover creative solutions to challenges that a handful of people in Ottawa or Washington might not necessarily devise. By itself, government doesn’t have all the answers.
In the network age, twenty-first-century institutions are not bigger or smaller ones: they are smarter hybrids that leverage somewhat anarchic technologies within tightly controlled bureaucracies to connect the organization to a network of people in order to devise new approaches that would never come from within the bureaucracy itself. By using technology to build connections between institutions and networks, we can open up new, manageable and useful ways for government and citizens to solve problems together. Everyone is an expert in something and so many would be willing to participate if given the opportunity to bring our talents, skills, expertise and enthusiasm to bring to bear for the public good.
Government agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration use their role as honest brokers to coordinate unprecedented data sharing among government, universities and companies. As a result, researchers are finding with astonishing rapidity the biological markers that show the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in the human brain. By collaborating to share all of their data and making it available to anyone with a computer anywhere in the world, the project enables researchers to build upon one another’s work and make faster progress. The collaborators are achieving in record time together what no one company or researcher could or would have done alone.
As President Obama recently said, “we cannot win the future with a government of the past.” The real motivator for changing how government works is to make government more democratic. Providing opportunities for citizens to collaborate is vital to fostering an engaged and democratic citizenry. Especially in this era when journalism is in economic transition, we have to look to new strategies that leverage technology to create democratic accountability by making many more people partners in the co-creation of governance.
The White House Open Government Initiative
On his first full day in office, President Obama signed the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, calling for “unprecedented level of openness in Government” and creating public institutions governed by the values of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. The White House Open Government Initiative, a collaboration between the White House and all the major Departments and agencies, was coordinated by White House Counsel, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Two years later and every cabinet department and major agency in the U.S. has a brainstorming website for public consultation and can visit the General Services Administration’s apps.gov online catalog to select from many more. The White House alone has eight Twitter accounts, including an open government account (@opengov) with over 150,000 followers, and many Cabinet Secretaries as well as their Departments tweet. Each of these organizations also has a fully articulated Open Government Plan, laying out concrete and specific steps they will take to make themselves more transparent, participatory and collaborative.
Agencies are putting up thousands of collections of government information online on their own agency websites and making those data sets searchable through the national data portal – Data.gov. In addition, agencies and the White House are reaching out to get “all hands on deck” to solve problems through Challenge.gov, the new national website that offers prize-backed rewards for the development of creative solutions to problems.
In its first two years, the Obama Administration started to experiment with collaboration in day-to-day governance. These “open government” initiatives have demonstrated that, when thoughtfully designed, participation can yield productive and creative solutions to serious issues.
As you will hear today, when the National Archives wanted to improve the Federal Register, the notoriously impenetrable daily gazette of government, it launched a prize-backed challenge and ended up turning to three young programmers, who had developed a highly readable prototype while sitting in a cafe in San Francisco. For the first time in the Federal Register’s seventy-five year history, a member of the public can easily read and search it.
When the Department of Health and Human Services wanted to help policymakers and citizens make more informed decisions about their healthcare, it made hundreds of public health indicators available online and invited companies and individuals to transform this raw Community Health Data into useful tools and visualizations. Within three months, people outside of government developed two-dozen innovations to improve community health. Since that time, they have developed many more.
When the United States Patent and Trademark Office, beleaguered by over a million backlogged pending applications, wanted to devise a way to get at better information faster to inform the determination of the patent examiner, it launched a pilot program with my law school called Peer-to-Patent to connect the institution to a network of volunteer scientists and technologists who contributed their own know-how and rated and ranked each other’s submissions for relevance and accuracy.
“Transparency, participation, collaboration” is, by no means, an exclusively American mantra. Ten countries have launched national data portals to make public information transparent and accessible in raw formats. The British Parliament is debating amending its Freedom of Information Act to provide that, when so requested, the government must “provide the information to the applicant in an electronic form which is capable of re-use.” Poland and Brazil are also working on open access legislation. Ten Downing Street like the White House has invited the citizenry and civil servants to brainstorm ideas for how to cut spending. They both publish government contracting data. Australia launched a national Government 2.0 taskforce to explore opportunities for citizen engagement. The United Nations and the World Bank are jumping on the open-data and collaboration bandwagon. India and the United States have an open government partnership. Local governments from Amsterdam to Vladivostok are implementing tools bring citizens into governance processes to help with everything from policing to public works in manageable and relevant ways.
Last September, President Obama gave a boost to the international open government movement when he called upon every nation to “make government more open and accountable.” The President exhorted other countries to return to the United Nations this September and “bring specific commitments to promote transparency; to fight corruption; to energize civic engagement; and to leverage new technologies so that we strengthen the foundation of freedom in our own countries, while living up to ideals that can light the world.”
From Principles to Practice: How to Build an Open Government
Beginning the process of creating an open and collaborative culture in the public sector requires a combination of 1) policy; 2) platforms; and 3) projects. In the United States, we used policy, including a very specific mandate that all public data is to be made open in raw formats, to provide the necessary assurances and incentives to the civil service. Furthermore, setting out the lofty ideals of openness and collaboration in the strongest terms inspired people to do the hard work required to transform institutions mid-stream.
Second, we used new platforms such as data.gov to enable officials to translate principles into practice. It’s one thing to pay lip service to transparency and another to have a place to put data to make it findable and searchable. Challenge.gov makes it possible for agencies to post and Americans to find ways to get involved. The availability of technological platforms for institutional innovation encourages would-be innovators to use the tools at their disposal.
Third, we encouraged the launch of a multiplicity of projects across the Executive branch in order to infuse open government values throughout the bureaucracy and empower civil servants to act as innovators. Then we celebrated those projects online and in meetings in an effort to identify and reward innovative people committed to the practices of openness. Also we launched our Open Government Initiative, we did so by using free social media tools to consult with both government employees and the public and thereby modeled the change. This has spawned dozens if not hundreds of such engagements.
It is also worth noting that going from principle to practice requires attention to changing the culture in government, civil society, and among the media. We can’t “do democracy” differently if we only address one. The Department of Health and Human Services is helping to co-convene an event on healthcare journalism in the era of open data, educating those who cover and write about health to become partners in the transformation under way.
A Note on the Importance of High Value Data
The Open Government Directive, the government-wide policy directing federal agencies to create open government plans, orders agencies to inventory their “high value” data, where high value is defined as: “[I]information that can be used to increase agency accountability and responsiveness; improve public knowledge of the agency and its operations; further the core mission of the agency; create economic opportunity; or respond to need and demand as identified through public consultation.”
First, going beyond spending data or the schedules of Cabinet Secretaries – traditional forms of accountability data – focuses on the data that people want (and are requesting via the Freedom of Information Act or via open gov websites) and ensure that open government serves the needs of the public.
Second, by starting with high value data and steering clear initially of national security data or personally identifiable information, government officials can publish data about bridge safety or patent filing and create a widespread culture change quickly.
Third, high value data emphasizes putting out information that improves people’s daily lives. For example, healthcare.gov, uses public data about health insurance options to give citizens more informed choices. There is a wealth of government data that can translate into useful knowledge to empower people and policymakers.
Fourth, publishing high value data allows government and the public to start developing a collaborative instead of an adversarial relationship. The Agriculture Department published nutritional data in raw form, enabling the First Lady’s Office to sponsor a prize to create the best games to teach kids health eating habits. Productive collaboration encourages public officials to publish more data and enlist people’s help with using thereby producing more opportunities for productive engagement. High value data is the means to turn citizens into the co-creators of government.
Instead of focusing on transparency for its own sake, it is important that government, together with the public, identify problems that need to be solved; publish data that enables the public to devise informed and creative solutions; and institute the platforms and the policies that enables collaboration by the people in their own governance.
Getting from Here to There: Principles for Open Government
Based on my experience designing and implementing open government practices across the Executive branch in the United States, I offer ten short recommendations for the Committee’s consideration.
1. Go Open – Government should work in the open. Its contracts, grants, legislation, regulation and policies should be transparent. Openness gives people the information they need to know how their democracy works and to participate.
2. Open Gov Includes Open Access - Work created by and at the behest of the taxpayer whether through grants or contracts should be freely available. After the public has paid once, it shouldn’t have to pay again.
3. Make Open Gov Productive Not Adversarial – Given the time-consuming nature of responding to information requests today, Government should invest its human and financial capital in providing the data that people really want and will use. Officials should articulate what they hope people will do with the data provided (ie. design a new Federal Register) and also be open to the unexpected contributions that improve the workings of the organization and help the public.
4. Be Collaborative – It isn’t enough just to be transparent; officials need to take the next step of actively soliciting engagement from those with the incentives and expertise to help. Legislation and regulatory rulemaking should be open to public as early as possible in the process to afford people an opportunity – not simply to comment -- but to submit constructive alternative proposals. Legislation should also mandate that agencies undertake public engagement during implementation.
5. Love Data – Design policies informed by real-time data. With data, we can measure performance, figure out what’s working, and change what’s not. Publishing the data generated in connection with new policies as well as “crowdsourcing” data gathered by those outside government enables innovation in policymaking. As an added bonus, open data also has the potential to create economic opportunity.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency in the United States has a ~$5 billion dollar annual budget. Through the open release of data, NOAA is catalyzing at least 100 times that value in the private sector market of weather and climate services when including market and non-market valuations.  The ~$1 billion it spends on the National Weather Service helps enable weather.com, which has since been sold for $3.5 billion. Hidden within the troves of public data is information that can translate into the next GPS or genomics industry.
6. Be Nimble – Where possible, invite innovations that can be implemented in 90 days or less. Forcing organizations to act more quickly discourages bureaucracy and encourages creative brainstorming and innovation. The need for speed encourages a willingness to reach out to others, including across the public sector.
7. Do More, Spend Less – Design solutions that do more with less. Instead of cutting a service to save money, ask if there is another way such as a prize or challenge to address people’s problems that both serves their needs and cuts costs. In this era of scientific and technological advances, we have amazing new ways of addressing problems if we can only recognize and implement them. Innovation may ultimately bring the win-win of more cost-effectiveness and greater engagement.
8. Invest in Platforms – So long as Freedom of Information, declassification and records management processes are entirely manual and data is created in analog instead of digital formats, open government will be very hard. Further, without tools to engage the public in brainstorming, drafting, policy reviews, and the other activities of government, collaboration will elude us. Focus on going forward practices of creating raw data and real engagement.
9. Invest in People – Changing the culture of government will not happen through statements of policy alone. It is important to ensure that policy empowers people to seek democratic alternatives and pursue open innovation. Consider appointing Chief Innovation Officers, Chief Democracy Officers, Chief Technology Officers.
10. Design for Democracy – Always ask if the legislation enables active and constructive engagement that uses people’s abilities and enthusiasm for the collective good. It is not enough to simply “throw” Facebook or Twitter at a problem. A process must be designed to complement the tool that ensures meaningful and manageable participation for both officials and the public.
 Beth Simone Noveck Noveck is a professor of law at New York Law School. Dr. Noveck served in the White House as the nation's first Deputy Chief Technology Officer (2009-2011) and leader of the White House Open Government Initiative (www.whitehouse.gov/open). The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation recently awarded Professor Noveck a grant to develop a multi-year interdisciplinary research agenda to gauge the impact of digital networks on institutions. In 2010, Professor Noveck was named “One of the Hundred Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company magazine and “One of the Top 5 Game Changers” by Politico. She is the author of Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful (Brookings Institution Press, 2009), which will appear this year in Arabic and Chinese.
 For an extended discussion of the theory and practice of “collaborative democracy,” see Beth Simone Noveck, Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful (Brookings Institution Press, 2009), chp. 2.
 See, e.g., Department of Labor Enforcement Database (http://ogesdw.dol.gov/); Health Indicators Warehouse health.data.gov (http://www.data.gov/health); Department of Transportation Data Inventory (http://www.dot.gov/open/data/index.html); Federal Communications Commission Data Inventory (http://reboot.fcc.gov/data/review); Environment Protection Agency Data Finder (http://www.epa.gov/data/).
 http://www.usaspending.gov and http://www.contractsfinder.businesslink.gov.uk/
 Ibid, p. 7.
 As just one example of a market that uses NOAA data, the total value of weather derivative trading has been estimated at: $2.0 billion/year in 1998-2000, $4.0 billion in 2001-2002, $4.0 billion in 2002-2003, $4.5 billion in 2003-2004, $9.7 billion in 2004-2005, $45.0 billion in 2005-2006, $32.0 billion in 2006-2007, and $15.0 billion in 2007-2008 (Weather Risk Management Association, 2009). Also for every $1 that energy companies spend in acquiring NOAA climate station data, they receive a potential benefit of saving $495 in infrastructure costs that would be required to maintain their own climate data base storage, archiving, and reporting system. Extrapolating the savings to the entire U.S. energy market yields a potential benefit of $65 million. Source: Investigating the Economic Value of Selected National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) Products, Centrec Consulting Group, Report, LLC, January, 2003. For more information, see http://economics.noaa.gov.
On March 5-6, I am looking forward to hosting Transportation Camp together with OpenPlans.org. I hope you will come.
Transportation Camp will bring together policymakers, technologists, activists and those interested in the intersection of urban transportation, sustainability, and technology. Come learn about how federal, state and local governments are making data freely available in reusable formats and about ways that decision makers, entrepreneurs, and designers are making use of that data to create tools that improve communities and empower citizens.
Join thinkers and doers for a weekend of learning, debating, connecting, and creating. Details at http://transportationcamp.org.
Register here: http://transportationcampeast.eventbrite.com
Transportation is a major metropolitan issue, with direct impacts on economic strength, environmental sustainability, and social equity. Recent advances in technology (“web 2.0”, mobile computing, open source software, open data and APIs, and spatial analysis) present an opportunity to improve mobility more immediately and at a lower cost than has ever been possible in the past.
TransportationCamp will raise awareness of this opportunity and build connections between disparate innovators in public administration, transportation operations, information design, and software development.
This is not a traditional conference: in addition to talks and presentations from big names in transportation and technology, TransportationCamp will provide an opportunity for every attendee to be a participant in shaping and leading the event. Be prepared to get involved, meet people, and get busy.
Major themes of discussion will include: open data -- best practices and technical challenges, ways to lower the cost of technology for transportation agencies, and creative new approaches to addressing transportation issues.
Session topics and activities will be suggested by attendees and organizers leading up to the event. So far, we’ve collected suggestions for over twenty possible topics, ranging from realtime information to legal issues. Add your ideas here: http://transportationcamp.org/topics/
Keep in touch:
Visit http://transportationcamp.org/topics/ and suggests topics and activities for TransportationCamp.
Follow @TranspoCamp on Twitter and the TranspoCamp Event News blog to get event and community updates.
Watch, follow and reblog opentransportation on Tumblr.
Tag tweets, photos, blog posts, etc. with the event hashtag: #transpo
In last night’s State of the Union, President Obama declared: “We cannot win the future with a government of the past.” He emphasized plans, outlined in the Executive Order on Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review he signed last week, calling for each agency to review its regulations and determine if they can be: “modified, streamlined, expanded, or repealed so as to make the agency's regulatory program more effective or less burdensome in achieving the regulatory objectives.”
Federal agencies enact between 4000-8000 (now closer to) 3,000+ rules each year governing every aspect of life from energy efficiency to endangered species, in contrast to one-tenth that number of statutes. Rulemaking is arguably the most important and far-reaching lawmaking mechanism in our democracy.
The White House can make good on its commitment to reduce the burden on regulated industries while still promoting corporate accountability and consumer protection if it uses technology – as the President repeatedly called for last night – to open up the rulemaking process to new voices and ideas from outside government. This can be done without changes to the Administrative Procedure Act (the legislation that governs rulemaking) or new budgets.
Developing more collaborative rulemaking practices would help the White House identify creative solutions that go beyond telling regulated businesses what to do (or not do) and identify complementary (and in some cases, substitute) approaches that reinforce the effectiveness of regulations.
For example, the Progressive Automotive X Prize awarded $10 million dollars in prizes to the entrepreneurs who developed the best mainstream and alternative energy vehicle to achieve 100 miles per gallon fuel efficiency. Prizes are just one possible complement to regulation for creating the necessary incentive to stimulate under-produced innovations. Congress recently provided the legislative impetus for agencies to “to use prizes and challenges to spur innovation, solve tough problems, and advance their core missions to use prizes more regularly,” says Tom Kalil, Associate Director for Policy of the Office of Science and Technology (my former home base). Challenge.gov, a new software tool, enables any public official to create a challenge, such as this one on connected vehicle technology.
For an agency considering how to achieve greater fuel efficiency, the rulemaking process is geared to do only one thing: write rules. Instead, the White House needs to retrain rule writers to be problem solvers.
Several reports have come out in recent years recommending strategies for using technology to make rulemaking improvements (here’s my article on the “E-Rulemaking Revolution” (2003)). But there are three things the White House can do in the next year to expand the toolkit of governance beyond current rulemaking practices consistent with the new Executive Order’s mandate to seek “open exchange of information and perspectives” in the rulemaking process.
1) In the short term (today), the White House can immediately direct agencies to use social media to obtain input much earlier in the rule planning process. Regulations.gov is a government-wide commenting platform for directing comments from citizens to agencies in connection with already drafted and proposed rules. But agencies are generally asking for help after formulating the solution outlined in the rule.
Instead, every department and major agency already has an online brainstorming tool (Ideascale) that lets one person make a suggestion and others give it thumbs up or thumbs down resulting in a rank-ordered list of proposals. Agencies can repurpose these brainstorming sites as well as their Facebook and Twitter accounts and other free tools to solicit input on policy problems long before they become rulemakings. Previously, it made sense to centralize commenting at regs.gov when technology was expensive and the public had a hard time finding commenting opportunities. With the newly redesigned daily gazette of government – FederalRegister.gov – it is far simpler to find public consultation opportunities wherever they take place and far simpler to run them.
The agency can host more online engagements in connection with a policy issue before it becomes a rulemaking on regulations.gov. For example, the Department of Transportation recently outsourced the running of such an online consultation to Cornell University’s “Regulation Room” blog, demonstrating how easy it is to use a simple discussion forum. Agencies have the convening power to attract maximum participation and should start running these policy consultations, too, vastly expanding the use of “outside in” policymaking.
2) Free social media tools are not ideally suited to obtaining structured, manageable, easy-to-read and relevant feedback -- 140 characters on Twitter may be a bit short to capture the nuances of fuel-efficiency --- which is why in the medium term (six months), the White House should employ a software platform that provides templates to organize citizen responses.
Toward the end of my two years as United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer, I collaborated with colleagues on the description of the design for “Expertnet,” the purpose-built question-asking tool we thought was needed to create useful citizen consultations. Such a tool would make it simple for any public official to use a wizard to set up a topic with public consultation questions; distribute and direct those questions to those with specific expertise and interests; configure a template for use in responding to questions so that the public would be providing empirical support for their responses; and synthesize the feedback.
The idea for ExpertNet is rooted in my earlier experience designing Peer-to-Patent in collaboration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. There we created a template by which a participating member of the public could supply bibliographic literature to the Patent Examiner and explain why it was relevant to assessing the claims of a pending patent application. Simple to fill out. Simple to read. While the Request for Comment in connection with Expertnet described the platform’s potential use in the context of seeking public input on agency performance management, such a tool could also be integrated into and replace the unstructured “click-here-to-comment” processes of regulations.gov.
3) In the long term (one year), rather than layer technology on top of the unchanged political realities, the White House should break out of the legislation-regulation paradigm and direct agencies, prior to any notice of proposed rulemaking, to invite people to develop short proposals supported by empirical evidence for alternative approaches to solving every problem on its agenda, considering every alternative.
At present, there is no opportunity for people outside of government to propose a prize-backed challenge, public-private partnership, social behavioral “nudge,” collective volunteer action, or new software platform as complements or alternatives to create the desired behavior change and consumer protection.
For example, with the release of massive quantities of data (data collected because of a statute or rulemaking) by agencies, Departments like Health and Human Services are beginning to explore how to collaborate with citizens to use this data to create tools that help citizens and policymakers make better, more evidence-based decisions. Websites like healthcare.gov, by creating complete transparency in the market for health insurance, have the potential to drive greater accountability in that marketplace with simple web tools and powerful data. These innovative, tech-based approaches are generally not substitutes but are important complements to regulation.
In order to enjoy a “a 21st century government that's open and competent,” as the President said last night, we need to network government – not reorg it. We need to take advantage of the opportunity created by networks to solicit meaningful, manageable and creative input from outside government early on in the regulatory process before a rule is ever drafted in order ensure that we are devising the most creative and efficient solutions and, at the same time, promoting the most robust democracy.
Today’s announcement from the Labor Department that it is requiring the work product of $500 million (the first tranche of $2 billion appropriated) in new grant money to be free for others to reuse represents a fundamental and laudable shift in how grants are made in government.
Since grants represent half of the federal budget this is important news with potentially powerful implications for changing the culture of grantmaking. By moving towards openness in practice, it might eventually enable changes in formal policy.
The Department of Labor in partnership with the Department of Education announced two billion dollars in grants to support educational and career training programs for workers. Known as the “Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant” – or TAA CCCT inside the Beltway – the program is precedent setting in its magnitude of support for 21st century job skill training and for making the default-setting in grantmaking much more open.
The TAA CCCT grants require that the training materials, curricula, online courses, and other courseware created by grantees with taxpayer money be made freely available for reuse to the public (not just to the government as is the standard practice) by means of a Creative Commons License (see cc post here). After all, we’ve already paid once to fund the grants, we shouldn’t have to pay a second and third time to purchase the same educational materials. As a matter of public policy, we want the widest possible dissemination of job training assistance.
In practice, this means that if a community college wins a grant to create a videogame to teach how to install solar panels, everyone will have the benefit of that knowledge. They will be able to play the game for free. In addition, anyone can translate it into Spanish or Russian or use it as the basis to create a new game to teach how to do a home energy retrofit.
In order to encourage use and re-use of these learning materials TAA CCCT goes beyond mandating that grantees give permission to use the educational resources; the grant program also gives instructions to grantees for how to tag and label their materials to make them easily findable online.
Open Grantmaking After
TAA CCCT reflects an international trend toward opening up access to work created with public funds. The National Institutes of Health open access policy requires: “all investigators funded by the NIH submit or have submitted for them to the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication, to be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication.”
Beginning this week, the National Science Foundation requires that every applicant submit a data management plan with her application. NSF doesn’t demand that grantee work product be open access. But they are taking a step in this direction by making the disposition of data a factor in consideration of the application. During my time there, the White House ran an online consultation to solicit input on public access policy. The Department of Education recently awarded $350M for the Race to the Top Assessment program, and not only required that the materials developed in the program be free, but that they must also be interoperable, so that no one vendor can create a platform for the free materials and force everyone to use it.
Open Grantmaking Before
Openness in grantmaking is not limited to ex post. There are exciting innovations before and during. The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration created Broadband Match, “an online tool that allows Recovery Act grant recipients and other communities developing broadband projects and programs to connect with a variety of potential partners. The goal of Broadband Match was to connect large-scale telcos with small-scale community organizations to write better grant applications together. BroadbandMatch used simple technology of the kind you find on many dating websites to “allow individuals and communities pursuing broadband projects to search for and connect with potential partners in specific locations and with appropriate areas of expertise, including small socially and economically disadvantaged businesses.”
Open Grantmaking During
The Department of Education’s Investment in Innovation (i3) grants program gave away $650 million last year to support those with a record of improving student achievement, close achievement gaps, decrease dropout rates, increase high school graduation rates, or increase college enrollment and completion rates through innovative practices.
In addition to the winning applications, the Department makes transparent narratives, scores, and technical review forms of the unfunded applications submitted under its competition for the biggest grants ($50 million). In addition, the Department partnered with twelve major foundations to give applicants the option of using the federal grant application to compete for $500 million in foundation funds.
In every case, openness in grantmaking is not simply transparency for its own sake. Rather, openness is a means to the end of fostering greater collaboration among potential applicants; improved accountability and grants management during the process; and greater ability for the public to access work products produced with grants.
We don’t have a lot of empirical experience yet with how much openness is optimal nor where it should be applied. For example, does disclosing the names of peer reviewers help or hurt with recruitment? Does making all applications – wining or not – available online create an incentive to apply or not? What is the right licensing scheme for different types of publicly funded research and development? The White House Social Innovation Fund was unfairly battered for failing to be more transparent when the government is, in fact, far ahead of most of the philanthropic community in practices of openness.
Precisely because there is a developing understanding of open grantmaking in government and the private sector that today’s TAA CCCT grant program – together with such innovations as NSF’s Data Management Plans, NTIA’s Broadband Match, and ED’s i3 fund – is such an important step forward.
Attacking the problem of closed grantmaking practices “head on” and trying to change grants management governmentwide whether through legislation or OMB policymaking is hard, very hard. People have to push this boulder up the hill.
But when DOL takes a page from NIH’s book and institutes its own open access program then another agency can come along and learn from the experience. Ditto any of the other examples cited above.
When we first mentioned these ideas and practices, they were considered radical. But, today, open grantmaking seems almost mainstream, an obvious way to provide stewardship over taxpayer dollars and through inter-agency communities of practice agencies are able to learn from and copy one another.
Making big organizations more open and collaborative is hard. Pronouncements from the top are essential to articulating a vision. But legislation can be done and undone. New policies replace old ones. Change has to come in practice not just in principle.
That is why if we want to change the culture of grantmaking, it’s not enough to push policy from the top down. It’s also important to change practices on the ground by encouraging 1000 smaller initiatives to bloom. Let’s hope DOL’s historic and important move today is the beginning of a trend toward greater openness and collaboration in the practice of grantmaking and eventually in the policy that must keep pace.