recommended reading

Industry report recommends ramping up agencies' open government plans

Federal agencies haven't done enough to measure the extent of public participation resulting from their open government plans or to calculate what impact that public participation is having on agency decisions, according to an industry report released Monday.

Overall, agencies have made strides in increasing the level of public participation since President Obama launched an Open Government Initiative on his first day in office, according to the report from IBM's Center for the Business of Government.

Too often, though, that participation is cursory and agencies haven't made adequate efforts to educate the public about the program beforehand so they can give informed input rather than a gut reaction, the report said.

"To simply inform and to consult are 'thin,' frequently pro forma techniques of participation that often fail to meet the public's expectation for involvement and typically yield little in the way of new knowledge," the report said.

Government transparency groups largely gave high marks to agency open government plans, published after a lengthy period of public comment on Obama's larger open government directive.

But those agency plans, by and large, don't provide enough details to determine whether agencies will be getting "high quality public participation" or just the random thoughts from agency website trolls, the IBM report argues.

"While some agencies do include commitments to establish more robust measurements for participation," the report said, "few plans include indicators that would measure meaningful progress toward becoming more participatory."

High quality public participation should include sustained involvement from a diverse group of citizens who are well-versed in an agency's goals and mission and who can actively engage with policymakers, the report said.

Most agency open government plans focus on promoting public participation through online comment pages and town hall meetings, challenges -- such as an Agriculture Department-sponsored competition to develop mobile apps that promote healthy eating habits among children -- and crowdsourced wikis that cull information on a topic from experts across the country.

The report recommends the interagency Open Government Working Group develop guidance that spells out precisely how public participation should be measured, what's considered high-quality public participation and how agencies should respond to public comments.

The report also recommends agencies determine which issues the public is most concerned about and focus open government initiatives on those areas.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.