What that means for transparency is debatable.
A year ago, President Obama and 46 other heads of state launched the Open Government Partnership, an initiative designed to increase transparency within governments around the world. The group’s declaration said that all adherent countries would:
- Promote openness, because more information about governmental activities should be timely and freely available to people;
- Engage citizens in decision-making, because this makes government more innovative and responsive;
- Implement the highest standards of professional integrity, because those in power must serve the people and not themselves; and
- Increase access to new technologies because of their unprecedented potential to help people realize their aspirations for access to information and a more powerful voice in how they are governed.
According to OpenTheGovernment.org, a watchdog group, the administration has made substantial progress in areas ranging from public participation in government to whistleblower protections for personnel. Patrice McDermott, the organization’s executive director, said the Obama administration put a great deal of work into the initiative, but it needed to do more to fulfill international commitments. The administration aims to implement the full tenets of the partnership by January 2013.
But OMBWatch noted that the administration has made little significant progress in some important areas, including efforts to modernize policies for managing public records and reduce response times for Freedom of Information Act requests.
NextGov has reported previously that the administration’s claims of transparency don’t always reflect the experience of journalists, lawmakers and other citizens seeking information about government actions and activity. What’s more, unreliable and faulty data sets render some of the transparency rhetoric meaningless.
Correction: This story originally misspelled Patrice McDermott's name. It has been corrected.