The current issue of Government Executive magazine has a terrific article by Andrew Noyes, “Behind the Curtain: What Transparency Really Means,” which explains why Obama’s Transparency and Open Government Directive will be challenging to draft and implement.
Noye’s article raises key questions: “What exactly is government transparency? How is it interpreted by those inside government who need to execute it? How will it be measured? What will it look like to the public?”
He begin to answer some of these questions with results of a recent survey of senior government managers that shows a clear disconnect between what government employees may see as transparent vs. how citizens and advocacy groups may view transparency:
· nearly 90 percent said they viewed transparency as providing facts and figures on project results and findings.
· about 74 percent said open government also included providing information such as policy rationales on how agencies went about making the decisions that they did, and
· 67 percent said open government also included making data ready for analysis from nongovernmental groups.
What managers said was not part of their definition of transparency was supplying names of those involved in top-level policy decisions (only 45 percent said those should be made public) and minutes from meetings (26 percent).
Noyes observes: “How transparency plays out will have significant political ramifications for Obama, say academics and government technology specialists. If the administration gets transparency right, which means it succeeds in opening the policymaking process and government operations in a way that the public perceives as credible and holds agencies accountable, it will forever change standard operating procedure in Washington.”
The results of the Government Executive survey will be discussed in a webinar on Tuesday (April 14) at 2 p.m., if you’re interested in learning more.