Over the last week we’ve been hearing disturbing news about the open government movement in the U.S. On June 22nd, The Washington Post announced The Death of Open Government and yesterday asked the question: Is the door closing on open government? Meanwhile, the UK continues to make investments in open government initiatives, inspired in part by past successes demonstrated on the other side of the Atlantic.
The speculation of open government slowing in the U.S. comes on the heels of slashes to U.S. open government spending and the resignation of Vivek Kundra (US Federal CIO). Kundra was a highly effective CIO and Gov 2.0 evangelist. His two-year-old Data.gov opened almost 400,000 government data sets and has been the foundation of 236 citizen-developed apps . Kundra’s 25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Information Technology Management has already saved U.S. taxpayers $3 billion in its first five months by turning around or terminating underperforming IT projects and shifting to a cloud first policy (reliance on private sector IT infrastructure).
The US data democratization programs have been cut from $35 to $8 million despite the demonstrated returns on investment and stimulus to the private sector. These cuts will either kill or severely hobble Data.gov, the IT Dashboard (tracks health of federal IT investments), and USASpending.gov (tracks federal contracts spending).
Meanwhile, the UK is steadily moving forward with the Gov 2.0 agenda. The UK launched Data.gov.uk in January, 2010 which boasted almost 3000 data sets (almost 3 times that of Data.gov, at that time) with ” information on everything from house prices to air quality.” In May the UK hired Beth Noveck, a former White House employee who was in charge of the Open Government Initiative, to take the open data movement in the UK to the next level.
Not surprisingly, at yesterday’s launch of DataCatalogs.org at the Open Knowledge Conference 2011, it was Noveck who commented she hopes it grows “into a vibrant place to articulate priorities, find and mash up data across jurisdictions and curate data-driven tools and initiatives that improve the effectiveness of government and the lives of citizens.” The goal of DataCatalogs.org is to become the most comprehensive list of open data catalogues in the world.
Two days ago, a British Cabinet Office minister told a business audience that David Cameron will soon announce the plan to publish potentially controversial criminal justice, health care, transport and schooling outcomes data. It is estimated that the benefits of opening this additional data will be worth €250bn a year.
Is the open government movement dead? No, there is no way to get that genie back in the bottle. Rather, the open government movement is spreading and growing. The U.S. has been set back with cuts to IT budget and the resignation of Kundra, but the future is bright for the UK who is setting the foundation to become the next open government global leader.