We hope you are all having a great Sunshine Week! We are only halfway through the week, but already we have so much news to share.
Our Sunshine Week celebration started the week prior with a message from Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero to all of the National Archives staff reminding them that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is everyone’s responsibility. Such messages from Executive leadership is critical to ensuring that a FOIA program has the support to do its work, and the Archivist continues to lead by example on this issue.
On Friday, we joined our friends at the Newseum to celebrate National Freedom of Information Day at an event organized by the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center, OpenTheGovernment.org, the American Society of News Editors, Sunshine Week and the American Library Association. In his remarks, OGIS Director, James Holzer, explained how OGIS is in its best position yet to act as a change agent in FOIA, thanks to our robust mediation and compliance programs.
The sun shone even brighter on Monday, thanks to an event we co-hosted with the National Archives. In his opening remarks, Mr. Ferriero welcomed attendees to his “house” and emphasized how open government is fundamental to the National Archives and to OGIS’s work as the Federal FOIA Ombudsman.
Two panels explored the links between technology and open government. Experts from outside and inside government described their work using technology to make the government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative. Thought leaders—including Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Archon Fung, and Wikipedia expert Andrew Lih of American University—outlined possibilities for using technology to advance open government.
After a short break in the program, keynote speaker Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont spoke about the importance of FOIA and of keeping the public informed about what the government is doing. The program ended with a presentation by Richard L. “Dick” Huff, former Co-Director of the Office of Information and Privacy, , who shared updates on how the FOIA continues to evolve thanks to court interpretations.
Thanks to the help from the National Archives’ Exhibits staff, we were also able to display the copy of FOIA signed by President Johnson. It was great to see attendees stop by the display case to wish the FOIA happy 50th birthday in person, and to share its photo through social media during and after the event!
If you missed the event, you can watch the video here: https://ogis.archives.gov/outreach-events/sunshine-week-2016/sunshine-week-2016-video.htm. If you want to see what other events are going on during Sunshine Week, be sure to check out the listing at Sunshine Week.org.
If you are looking for other ways to help make the government more open, please check out the National Archives’ call for your ideas for our Open Government Plan 4.0. In the last National Archives Open Government Plan, OGIS committed to taking several steps to help improve openness – including setting up a robust compliance program and establishing the Federal FOIA Advisory Committee. If you have any suggestions for how to continue to increase transparency, participation, and collaboration through our work, please let us know!