Open Government: OGIS’s Take

The term “Open Government” is thrown around a lot these days. President Obama made Open Government a keystone of his administration, beginning with the memorandum on Open Government on January 21, 2009. But what does Open Government actually mean? Is Open Government about using technology to make government work better and to disclose vast amounts of data for use by citizen entrepreneurs?  Or does Open Government mean making government records more readily available to shine light on government operations and root out corruption and bad practices?  Or is Open Government really about collaborative governance, using more inclusive and cooperative processes to help government agencies develop workable solutions to controversial and complex issues?  In our view, Open Government is all of these and more.

We will explore the concept of Open Government on the FOIA Ombudsman in the coming months. OGIS’s role in facilitating resolution to Federal FOIA disputes provides us with a unique perspective on innovative Open Government initiatives taking place all over the executive branch. Today, however, we wish to point out one small way that OGIS contributes to Open Government — by making OGIS Director Miriam Nisbet’s calendar available on the OGIS web site.

OGIS began posting Director Nisbet’s calendar soon after the office opened. We believe that it is the public’s business to know how the head of our office spends her time. Director Nisbet meets with representatives of many organizations and agencies, and we think that her calendar provides a unique perspective on the scope and reach of our office. Finally, we firmly believe that making Director Nisbet’s calendar public models a good Open Government practice that shines a light on government operations and might be useful in reducing the number of FOIA requests for these records.

If you have not had an opportunity to review Director Nisbet’s calendar, we invite you to do so! We would love to hear any thoughts on this practice or other ways to demonstrate government openness.