Thursday, November 13, 2008

Obama's plan for open government

Obama has released a policy paper outlining his stance on Technology and Innovation (pdf unfortunately, but worth reading). To anyone under 30, the statement raises a number of ideas that sound wonderful and obvious at the same time - it makes you say "why haven't we been doing this already?"

The most exciting part comes after a bit of unnecessary Bush-slamming, when Obama promises:

An Obama presidency will use cutting-edge technologies to reverse this dynamic, creating a new level of transparency, accountability and participation for America’s citizens. Technology-enabled citizen participation has already produced ideas driving Obama’s campaign and its vision for how technology can help connect government to its citizens and engage citizens in a democracy. Barack Obama will use the most current technological tools available to make government less beholden to special interest groups and lobbyists and promote citizen participation in government decision-making.
He then goes on to describe some pretty detailed ideas on how to make this possible, including:
  • Making government data available online to allow citizens to use it as they see fit
  • Instituting a web site and search engine to enable citizens to track federal grants, contracts, earmarks and lobbyist contracts with government officials
  • Opportunity to review and comment on legislation via the White House website for five days for all non-emergency legislation
  • Requiring Cabinet-level officials to have periodic national online town hall meetings
  • Using blogs, wikis and social networking
These are only the very first steps, but they sound like great ones to me. I would challenge him to eventually take it a step further by creating opportunities for citizens to contribute to the content of legislation, as Obama offers to "open up government decision-making". Right now, I have no idea how that would work, but it will be one of the main ideas that I explore on this blog.

What would it mean to you to have open government? Do you think Obama's plan will bring any real change?

No comments: