Open Government

Emerging Tech and Open Data for a More Open and Accountable Government

Open data and emerging technologies—including artificial intelligence and distributed ledgers, such as blockchain—hold vast potential to transform public services held back by bureaucracy and outdated IT systems. We are opening the doors to bold, fresh ideas for government accountability, transparency and citizen participation by working with U.S. businesses, civil society groups and others to shape national goals for emerging technologies and open data in public services. At our upcoming collaborative workshop, Emerging Technology and Open Data for a More Open Government, we invite new partners to help craft potential goals to be integrated into the fourth U.

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Inspiring Data Forum at the Canadian Space Agency

Last [month], NASA Open Innovation Program Manager Dr. Beth Beck and her team traveled to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) near Montreal, Canada to attend the Inspiring Data Forum graciously hosted by our Open Data neighbors to the North. The goal of this gathering was to bolster the working relationship between the two Space Agency’s Open Data efforts and to present techniques NASA is doing in Open Innovation. The event was heavily attended by CSA employees and also had participants from National Research Council of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat, Natural Resources Canada, Agricultural and Agri-Food Canada, MaxQ and Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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Federally Funded Research Results Are Becoming More Open and Accessible

Summary: Significant strides in improving public access to scholarly publications and digital data help usher in an era of open science. This week marks the 8th annual Open Access Week, when individuals and organizations around the world celebrate the value of opening up online access to the results of scholarly research. It is an opportune time to highlight the considerable progress that Federal departments and agencies have made increasing public access to the results of Federally-supported scientific research and advancing the broader notion of open science.

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NASA: Open Gov Plan 2016 Outline

Here is the outline for our 2016 Open Government Plan. Let us know what you think. We’ve also posted this on GitHub/NASA for your comments: https://github.com/nasa/Open-Gov-Plan-v4. NASA and Open Government NASA is an open government agency based on the founding legislation in the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, which calls for participation and sharing in the conduct of how we go about the business of expanding the frontiers of knowledge, advancing understanding of the universe, and serving the American public.

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DARPA: A Case Study in Open Innovation

You may not know it, but the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has changed your life. There’s the Internet, for starters. And if that isn’t enough, the agency also has played a pivotal role in shaping GPS, stealth aircraft and drone technology. In fact, ever since its creation under President Eisenhower, DARPA has been transforming life on and off the battlefield. And the ideas haven’t dried up. A scan of programs currently in the works reveals DARPA to be as forward-looking and vital as ever.

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NASA Space Apps Challenge: 2016 Global Winners!

We’re thrilled to announce the Space Apps 2016 Global Award Winners!! These projects well represent the best of the best innovative thinking this year. Congratulations to all the teams. We look forward to seeing you at an upcoming NASA launch in Florida. Best Use of Data: Scintilla, created at the Space Apps Pasadena, California main stage event, mitigates the impact of poor air quality in the global community by democratizing air quality data collection.

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Data: the Key to a More Transparent, Open Government

The work of the federal government is incredibly diverse, and affects almost every aspect of American life, whether it is keeping planes in the air or ensuring that our food is safe. Every public service the government provides requires many different skill sets, but the one thing that unites them all is a consistent requirement for transparency. Transparency enables the federal government to demonstrate to the American people how their tax dollars are being used.

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Open Data Democratizes Innovation

Americans Use Public Data to Improve the Lives of Fellow Citizens Data is one of our most important national assets. It informs our policy and our national priorities. But as we have seen time and time again, the most effective way to govern is to engage with the public directly. Thanks to the President’s Executive Order requiring that agencies make data open, we are democratizing access to data.

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My Data: Empowering All Americans with Personal Data Access

Summary: Consumers empowered with their own data are in the driver’s seat to make informed choices. In the 21st century economy, Americans rely on online services to access personal bank accounts, pay bills, and shop online, so why don’t we have similar interactions with Federal government through easy-to-use, online tools? The answer is we can—and increasingly we are—as we continue to build a 21st century government. Since first taking office, President Obama has been committed to building a more open and transparent government while, at the same time, protecting consumers and empowering them to make informed choices for themselves and their families.

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Once Upon a FOIA Request: How You Can Open Public Records

Like many of you, we watched with great interest this week when a citizen submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) asking them to release to the public Wu-Tang Clan’s album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. While official sources explain that the desired outcome is not possible at this time… …in light of this creative effort, let’s discuss how you too can use FOIA and other Open Government programs to build a better tomorrow.

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Empowering the Voice of Citizens at Core of GSA Open Government

We are proud to announce our commitment to the third U.S. National Action Plan for Open Government, released this week at the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Global Summit in Mexico City, Mexico, and are also eager to share how Public Participation can empower our citizens to have a greater voice and impact in improving their services. In her opening comments at the OGP Summit, Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, noted that making a real impact for citizens takes more than a focus on just increasing social media followers or touting simulated performance, and instead we must dedicate digital engagement programs to providing real, meaningful paths to participation.

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GSA Open Government Builds Solutions and Gives Voice to Citizens

Our work at the General Services Administration encompass many of the pillars of Open Government, from giving a greater voice to citizens to through Public Participation innovations like Challenge.gov to making the DNA of all programs more accessible and usable through Open Data. We at GSA are proud to announce the agency’s commitment to the Third Open Government National Action Plan of the United States under the Open Government Partnership (OGP), announced this week at the OGP Summit in Mexico City, Mexico.

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The Content Corner: Using Natural Language Processing to Improve Rulemaking

For the past several weeks, I have been inflicting you with my recent dive down the rabbit hole of natural language generation and the larger discipline of natural language algorithms. Most of the focus has been on the power of natural language generation and how it can help you rapidly produce content on a wide array of topics in an easy to read format with little effort on the part of a human.

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Help Us Strengthen Open Government

Since the United States joined the Open Government Partnership in 2011, U.S. agencies have been working alongside civil society to develop and implement commitments to increase transparency, improve participation, and curb corruption. From opening up Federal spending data to make it easier to see how taxpayer dollars are spent, to the We the People online petition site where the public can propose U.S. policy changes, to strengthening efforts to deny safe haven in the U.

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The API Briefing: Making a Difference One Microtask at a Time

I recently found an app that provides a great service through crowdsourcing. Be My Eyes connects visually-impaired people with volunteers. Using the smartphone’s camera, the volunteers can perform tasks such as reading an expiration date or helping someone navigate unfamiliar surroundings. This is not a federal app, but I wanted to highlight it to demonstrate how crowdsourcing apps can make it easy for everyone to make a difference through microtasks.

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Empowerment, Innovation, and Improved Health Outcomes: the Blue Button Initiative

Finding and getting access to our own health information can be a complex process. And most of us don’t really think about having our health information readily accessible until we really need it – like in the event of an emergency, or when switching doctors or traveling. Combing through stacks of paperwork and contacting providers is daunting for even the most organized among us. However, this familiar scenario is being reimagined.

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2nd U.S. Public Participation Playbook Draft Responds to Public Contributions

The new second draft of the U.S. Public Participation Playbook incorporates changes that were proposed from nearly 100 suggestions submitted after the first week of public comment, with more improvements to come. We still need your contributions for this groundbreaking new collaborative resource to measurably improve our participatory public services across government, and would like to take this opportunity to share what we have learned so far.

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Help Shape Public Participation

Public participation—where citizens help shape and implement government programs—is a foundation of open, transparent, and engaging government services. From emergency management and regulatory development to science and education, better and more meaningful engagement with those who use public services can measurably improve government for everyone. A team across the government is now working side-by-side with civil society organizations to deliver the first U.S. Public Participation Playbook, dedicated to providing best practices for how agencies can better design public participation programs, and suggested performance metrics for evaluating their effectiveness.

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A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Tokens: Part II

In the first part of A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Tokens, I explained why we built a social media-driven image search engine, and specifically how we used Elasticsearch to build its first iteration. In this week’s post, I’ll take a deep dive into how we worked to improve relevancy, recall, and the searcher’s experience as a whole. Redefine Recency To solve the scoring problem on older photos for archival photostreams, we decided that after some amount of time, say six weeks, we no longer wanted to keep decaying the relevancy on photos.

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Getting to Work for the American People

Over the last 6 months, 18F has embarked on a mission to transform the way the U.S. Government builds and buys digital services. We’re currently working with more than half a dozen agencies to help them deliver on their missions in a design-centric, agile, open, and data-driven way. How do we say yes to a project? We ask ourselves: Is there an opportunity to improve the interaction between government and the people it serves?

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Stacking Up the Benefits of Openness

Open government, open source, openness. These words are often used in talking about open data, but we sometimes forget that the root of all of this is an open community. Individuals working together to release government data and put it to use to help their neighbors and reach new personal goals. This sense of community in the open data field shows up in many places. I see it when people volunteer at the National Day of Civic Hacking, crowdsource data integrity with MapGive, or mentor with Girls Who Code.

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A New Look at the Freedom of Information Act

There are many ways the public can get information from the federal government. For example, you can check out Data.gov to find scores of datasets and APIs, agency websites for information about their work, or other important information in online FOIA Libraries. Or you can also just ask for it. Since 1966, the Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, has granted the public the right to access information from the federal government.

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Why @congressedits Matters for Your Agency

If you haven’t heard about @congressedits yet, it’s a Twitter bot that was recently created to tweet out every anonymous edit made to Wikipedia from Congressional IP addresses. So, anyone editing articles on Wikipedia without logging in, and doing this while on Congressional Internet access, will have those changes tweeted (like this). Some of these have been productive and some embarrassing, but, in the past, some edits from Congress have been described on Wikipedia as politically motivated and even libelous.

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Citizen Engagement at NASA

Recently, the White House hosted Stakeholder Engagement Workshops—an informal meet-up for citizens and federal agencies to discuss progress on Open Government. The third version of our Open Gov Plan is due June 1st. My Open Innovation teammates and I took the opportunity to attend the event. We gained valuable insights from citizen activists on what they want to see in agency plans, as well as how they will judge our progress on White House mandates for transparency, collaboration, and participation.

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Tips from NRC on Webstreaming Public Meetings

In support of open government, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) expansion of webstreamed meetings has allowed more participants around the country to hear about existing and proposed nuclear sites. It was lauded in a recent White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) blog about the upcoming 2014 Open Government plans and achievements from past plans. An agency that prides itself on openness in its regulatory activities, NRC has been webstreaming public meetings since 1997, when the Office of Information Services conducted a “pilot” test of nine Commission meetings to ascertain the interest of stakeholders and the public in viewing these meetings, as they took place over the Internet.

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What to Do with Big Data?

Shortly after taking office in 2009, President Obama launched the Open Government Initiative, an effort to increase transparency, participation, and collaboration in the federal government. The initiative introduced a number of websites and strategies to offer raw government data, including research grant information on data.gov. For energy gurus, data.gov/energy offers downloads of energy-related data such as energy use and consumption in the U.S. Yet the mere provision of big data is not enough; a key component of making big data accessible is providing context and meaning to that data to enable the public to solve problems, identify patterns, and draw conclusions.

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We Love it When a Plan Comes Together…

Federal agencies are currently hard at work developing revised Open Government Plans—blueprints that are published every two years, highlighting agency progress towards making their work more transparent, participatory, and collaborative, and outlining new open government commitments going forward. This iterative, biennial process grew out of the December 2009 Open Government Directive issued by the Office of Management and Budget, which instructed executive departments and agencies to take specific actions to incorporate the principles of openness set forth in the President’s Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, which he signed on his first full day in office.

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Tour Data.gov 2.0

As you know, last month Data.gov launched its new open-source Data.gov 2.0 catalog (catalog.data.gov). Based on CKAN, a data management platform used by many open-data catalogs around the world, Data.gov’s new catalog has received nothing but kudos from users. For the first time, our raw datasets, tools and geospatial datasets are in one place making search and discovery easier than ever. To make exploring the new catalog even easier, Data.

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Civic Hacking at the White House: We the People, By the People

On June 1st and 2nd, more than 11,000 civic activists, technology experts, and entrepreneurs around the country came together for the National Day of Civic Hacking. Civic activists, technology experts, and entrepreneurs in 83 cities developed software to help others in their own neighborhoods and across the country. More than twenty federal agencies took part by submitting challenges for participants to tackle and opening up datasets for them to use.

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