The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
September 24, 2014
Three years ago, President Obama joined with the leaders of seven other nations to launch the Open Government Partnership (OGP), an international partnership between governments and civil society to promote transparency, fight corruption, energize civic engagement, and leverage new technologies to open up governments worldwide. The United States and other founding countries pledged to transform the way that governments serve their citizens in the 21st century. Today, as heads of state of OGP participating countries gather at the UN General Assembly, this partnership has grown from 8 to 65 nations and hundreds of civil society organizations around the world. These countries are embracing the challenge by taking steps in partnership with civil society to increase the ability of citizens to engage their governments, access government data to fuel entrepreneurship and innovation, and promote accountability.
In just three years, the OGP has generated over 2,000 new national commitments to improve government for more than 2 billion people around the world. OGP national commitments range from passing or modernizing freedom of information laws, implementing measures to prevent corruption in the public and private sectors, and developing mechanisms to facilitate dialogue with civil society. It is a testament to how truly global the open government movement has become that OGP’s leadership and membership now represent most of the world’s regions. As part of their OGP national action plans, governments are committing to institute anticorruption measures, publish better and timelier information on how governments spend taxpayer dollars, and broaden citizen participation in the public policy-making process.
- From South Africa to the Philippines, citizens are organizing through their local governments to make their voices heard and get the public services they need. From Indonesia to Albania to Macedonia, governments are partnering with civil society to develop new tools to report on corruption and promote transparency, and more governments are taking steps to bring transparency into the energy sector. From Mexico to Bulgaria, governments at all levels are putting more and better quality information online, allowing citizens to hold them accountable for how they spend taxpayer dollars. From Brazil to Paraguay, Ireland, and Sierra Leone, civil society organizations are working with government reformers to draft and reform freedom of information laws. And from Georgia to Ghana, governments are establishing systems to ensure civil society participation in the public policy-making process.
The United States will continue to engage with and support OGP countries as they commit to policy and regulatory reforms designed to promote open government. One reason that this international partnership is so important is it allows us to learn from each other. For example, the United States has been inspired by the British government’s approach to digital services. We have engaged with Brazil, Canada, France, Mexico, the Philippines and Sierra Leone to share lessons learned in implementing open government initiatives, to promote extractives industry transparency, improve federal government records management, and modernize our Freedom of Information Act, among other things. U.S. assistance has helped Sierra Leone to develop its first OGP National Action Plan with robust citizen engagement; Tunisia to become eligible to join OGP on the third anniversary of its revolution in January; and other countries to implement their OGP commitments to transparency, accountability and citizen engagement. The United States is also working with several private sector partners and associations to help build capacity to implement open data policies, develop legal and regulatory reforms, and improve accountability and public service delivery in OGP member countries.
The United States is committed to continuing to lead by example in OGP. Since assuming office, President Obama has prioritized making government more open and accountable and has taken substantial steps to increase citizen participation, collaboration with civil society, and transparency in government. The United States will remain a global leader of international efforts to promote transparency, stem corruption and hold to account those who exploit the public’s trust for private gain. Yesterday, President Obama announced several steps the United States is taking to deepen our support for civil society globally.
Today, to mark the third anniversary of OGP, President Obama is announcing four new and expanded open government initiatives that will advance our efforts through the end of 2015.
1. Promote Open Education to Increase Awareness and Engagement
Open education is the open sharing of digital learning materials, tools, and practices that ensures free access to and legal adoption of learning resources. The United States is committed to open education and will:
- Raise open education awareness and identify new partnerships. The U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy will jointly host a workshop on challenges and opportunities in open education internationally with stakeholders from academia, industry, and government.
- Pilot new models for using open educational resources to support learning. The State Department will conduct three pilots overseas by December 2015 that use open educational resources to support learning in formal and informal learning contexts. The pilots’ results, including best practices, will be made publicly available for interested educators.
- Launch an online skills academy. The Department of Labor (DOL), with cooperation from the Department of Education, will award $25 million through competitive grants to launch an online skills academy in 2015 that will offer open online courses of study, using technology to create high-quality, free, or low-cost pathways to degrees, certificates, and other employer-recognized credentials.
2. Deliver Government Services More Effectively Through Information Technology
The Administration is committed to serving the American people more effectively and efficiently through smarter IT delivery. The newly launched U.S. Digital Service will work to remove barriers to digital service delivery and remake the experience that people and businesses have with their government. To improve delivery of Federal services, information, and benefits, the Administration will:
- Expand digital service delivery expertise in government. Throughout 2015, the Administration will continue recruiting top digital talent from the private and public sectors to expand services across the government. These individuals —who have expertise in technology, procurement, human resources, and financing —will serve as digital professionals in a number of capacities in the Federal government, including the new U.S. Digital Service and 18F digital delivery team within the U.S. General Services Administration, as well as within Federal agencies. These teams will take best practices from the public and private sectors and scale them across agencies with a focus on the customer experience.
- Build digital services in the open. The Administration will expand its efforts to build digital services in the open. This includes using open and transparent processes intended to better understand user needs, testing pilot digital projects, and designing and developing digital services at scale. In addition, building on the recently published Digital Services Playbook, the Administration will continue to openly publish best practices on collaborative websites that enable the public to suggest improvements.
- Adopt an open source software policy. Using and contributing back to open source software can fuel innovation, lower costs, and benefit the public. No later than December 31, 2015, the Administration will work through the Federal agencies to develop an open source software policy that, together with the Digital Services Playbook, will support improved access to custom software code developed for the Federal government.
3. Increase Transparency in Spending
The Administration has made an increasing amount of Federal spending data publicly available and searchable, allowing nationwide stakeholders to perform analysis of Federal spending. The Administration will build on these efforts by committing to:
- Improve USAspending.gov. In 2015, the Administration will launch a refreshed USAspending.gov website that will improve the site’s design and user experience, including better enabling users to explore the data using interactive maps and improving the search functionality and application programming interface.
- Improve accessibility and reusability of Federal financial data. In 2015, as part of implementation of the DATA Act, the Administration will work to improve the accessibility and reusability of Federal financial data by issuing data element definition standards and standards for exchanging financial data. The Administration, through the Office of Management and Budget, will leverage industry data exchange standards to the extent practicable to maximize the sharing and utilization of Federal financial data.
- Explore options for visualization and publication of additional Federal financial data. The Administration, through the Treasury Department, will use small-scale pilots to help explore options for visualizing and publishing Federal financial data from across the government as required by the DATA Act.
- Continue to engage stakeholders. The Administration will continue to engage with a broad group of stakeholders to seek input on Federal financial transparency initiatives including DATA Act implementation, by hosting town hall meetings, conducting interactive workshops, and seeking input via open innovation collaboration tools.
4. Use Big Data to Support Greater Openness and Accountability
President Obama has recognized the growing importance of “big data” technologies for our economy and the advancement of public good in areas such as education, energy conservation, and healthcare. The Administration is taking action to ensure responsible uses of big data to promote greater openness and accountability across a range of areas and sectors. As part of the work it is doing in this area, the Administration has committed to:
- Enhance sharing of best practices on data privacy for state and local law enforcement. Federal agencies with expertise in law enforcement, privacy, and data practices will seek to enhance collaboration and information sharing about privacy best practices among state and local law enforcement agencies receiving Federal grants.
- Ensure privacy protection for big data analyses in health. Big data introduces new opportunities to advance medicine and science, improve health care, and support better public health. To ensure that individual privacy is protected while capitalizing on new technologies and data, the Administration, led by the Department of Health and Human Services, will: (1) consult with stakeholders to assess how Federal laws and regulations can best accommodate big data analyses that promise to advance medical science and reduce health care costs; and (2) develop recommendations for ways to promote and facilitate research through access to data while safeguarding patient privacy and autonomy.
- Expand technical expertise in government to stop discrimination. U.S. Government departments and agencies will work to expand their technical expertise to identify outcomes facilitated by big data analytics that may have a discriminatory impact on protected classes.