Wanted: Open Government Checklist

Public Transit Openness Index

Last night at an event here at OpenPlans, I spent a few minutes talking to Boštjan “Bos” Špetic, the founder of a web startup called Zemanta (a tool for finding related content to blog posts — for writers as well as readers).  Most of Bos’ team is based in Slovenia, where he is from.

We got to talking about OpenPlans’ work and the issue of Open Government in general. As it happens, Bos is on an advisory committee to the Slovenian government on Open Government, and will have an opportunity, come fall, to deliver recommendations on where they should direct their efforts.  He is looking for information on where to start, as it’s pretty much a blank slate for them right now.

First off, I don’t know anything about Slovenia’s government, policies, or infrastructure.  All I can do is point to some resources that are beginning to be developed here in the US, after a few years of real traction towards open government:

Coming from the top is the White House’s Open Government Initiative .  I can testify to the impact that this high-level mandate has had throughout the country; we see language from it in new initiatives, RFPs, etc every day.  Next, there are a number of books, notably O’Reilly’s recent Open Government, Beth Noveck’s excellent Wiki Government (which focuses on collaborative governance) and Personal Democracy Forum’s Rebooting America. And of course, there are a number of evolving online resources, including the Open Government Playbook, which acts as an index to lots of open government documentation, and the (very rough) Open Government Guidebook that’s being developed as part of our OpenMuni effort, and aims to become a step-by-step how to for some processes.

One of my favorite open government resources, that’s now admittedly a bit out of date, is the Public Transit Openness Index, a screenshot of which is at the top of this post.  What it does nicely is breaks the concept of “open” down into concrete, measurable steps, which can be compared across agencies.  It would be great to see something like this for open government more broadly, across functions and jurisdictions.

The White House’s Open Government Directive offers a start, and they’ve begun to track agencies’ progress, but what I’d love to see is an organic document that breaks open government down into pieces, and links it up to efforts that are underway or have already taken place.  Maybe this already exists?  The Playbook and Guidebook, above, are both moving in this direction, but I’ve yet to see a more granular and hyperlinked checklist like the Transit Openness Index. Checklists are great, and social checklists are even better.  Perhaps this is a project for WikiHow (which doesn’t yet have a government section), or maybe it’s something new.

Regardless, it’s clear that there’s still work to be done in packaging the learnings of open government, for ourselves and for folks around the world who are looking for models to follow.

Update: I neglected to mention Phil Ashlock’s excellent recent post covering the State of Open Government which covers this question in much more detail than I did here.