The following originally appeared at www.fiscalaccountability.org:
Today, the White House released the long-awaited Open Government Directive via webcast. And a lot of what is said in the memorandum for the heads of executive departments and agencies sounds pretty good. It talks about a presumption of openness when it comes to government information and spells out a schedule for agencies to comply with this presumption.
While the first part talks about general agency data, the second part of the document focuses on improving the quality of government information and specifically focuses on the area of Federal spending information. In that context, the following timetable is set:
- within 45 days each agency is required to have designated a high-level senior official to be accountable for the quality and objectivity of spenidng information on venues such as USAspending.gov
- within 60 days, OMB will isssue a guidance focusing on the quality of suc hinformation requiring agencies to submit plans relating to information quality
- and within 120 days OMB will issue a longer-term comprehensive strategy for Federal spending transparency which will be interesting to see.
While this all sounds good, as do most of the other parts of the directive, it remains to be seen what this will actually mean once implemented.
Consider for example the requirement that within 45 days each agency shall identify and publish online in an open format at least three high-value data sets and register them on Data.gov. Sounds pretty good, right?
But what threw me off a litttle was the explanation given during the webcast with CTO Aneesh Chopra (left) and CIO Vivek Kundra of how the data sets are chosen: Sitting down with agency heads, identifying their policy goals and then determining the release of which data sets will help them accomplish their goals – which sounds to me like targeted release of information to serve a specific purpose, or short: propaganda.
Consequently, we are concerned – also based on our experience with Recovery.gov which is the poster child for spinning numbers – that what we’ll end up getting will not be that much more transparency, but more spin.