President Obama's Initiatives | Global Architecture & Information Network Initiative | www.GAINInitiative.net

President Obama's Initiatives to transform government to be more transparent, participatory and collaborative will impact the culture, processes and perception of the government and the way citizens interact with it.  These initiatives will also rely on and have an impact on the technologies that support government.

The memorandum on transparency was issued about 24 hours after President Obama took office and the administration has made it clear that it is serious about this transition.  In the Management of Change Conference 2009 both Vivek Kundra and Aneesh Chopra elaborated on these initiatives and how they will be achieved using technology.  This page will outline what these initiatives are, particularly with respect to information, architecture and technology, and will set the basis for a Recipe to Enable President Obama's Initiatives.

We will consider each of the initiatives components in terms of the requirements it places on supporting architecture and technology.

Government should be transparent

Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset.  My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use.  Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public.  Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.

Architectural Impact

Transparency is about information, access to it, ability to understand it and the ability to utilize it effectively.  There are a number of substantial shifts implied by this goal.  The "default" for government information shifts from being closed to being open.  In doing so the requirements to analyze information for security and privacy concerns becomes paramount.  Where information has been more closed it has been acceptable (but not overly efficient) for information sources to be somewhat closed, use home-grown technologies, vocabularies and schema as this information was not required to be federated with other information.

Architecting information to be open and accessible will be a challenge.  The technologies are only just starting to become available to deal with large - federated data sources available throughout the internet.  Each of these data sources can no longer be an island, but has to have some commonality of technologies, vocabularies and semantics so that it is practical to search it, analyze it and "mash it up".

Technology Support

There is a common requirement among all agencies and departments (and commercial organizations as well)  to be able to collect and publish information in an open and accessible way - this can be seen as a federated data "cloud", with providers and consumers of information interacting through the cloud.  The cloud and the resources we have to analyze the information in the cloud provides transparency .  Both standards and pervasive technologies are required to make this easy, cheap and effective.  The result should be a federated federal information cloud that allows citizens and other agencies free and easy access to public information and restricted but flexible access to secure information.  This involves three central capabilities: to be able to publish data on the internet in a way it can be accessed, queried and linked, accessing the information requires well defined technology services.  To be able to understand the data requires common vocabularies for that information so that it can be understood, regardless of source and to be able to analyze and digest that information in a variety of ways not anticipated by the information provider.  To make this practical agencies and departments will also need very flexible ways to map their current, internally focused data resources to this federated public information cloud.

Government should be participatory

Public engagement enhances the Government's effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions.  Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge.  Executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information.  Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public input on how we can increase and improve opportunities for public participation in Government.

Architectural Impact

This is a paradigm shift in the way government agencies and departments operate - it will affect their policies, business processes, decision making and information management.  Realizing this transformation in culture, process and policy is much more of a challenge than the technology.  Architecture is required for this transformation, to understand where the organization is going and how to get there while keeping these complex organizations productive as they transform.  The architecture for change can also be part of the public dialog - a participatory collaboration.

Technology Support

For the first time in any republic there is a practical way for citizens to participate directly - to have a voice as part of the national dialog.  In the past government has largely spoken to the people and the voice of the people is largely reflected indirectly through their representatives.  Social networking sites such as the Open Government Brainstorm show that there can now be direct participation by citizens in government policy - there is a role for government talking to citizens, citizens talking to government and citizens talking to citizens.  This is a new paradigm of government that leverages a new capability provided by internet technologies.  It is not difficult or expensive to start and there is an explosion of interest in participating. 

Transparent and participatory government coalesces in information.  While transparency implies publishing information, participation implies collaboratively creating the information.  Many of the information resources of the government also need to be open to comment and, in some cases modification, by citizens and other agencies.  This two-way interaction is a key capability afforded by the Web-2.0 technologies and impacts how information is created and managed.

Government should be collaborative

Collaboration actively engages Americans in the work of their Government.  Executive departments and agencies should use innovative tools, methods, and systems to cooperate among themselves, across all levels of Government, and with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals in the private sector.  Executive departments and agencies should solicit public feedback to assess and improve their level of collaboration and to identify new opportunities for cooperation.

Architectural Impact

Collaboration has become the key to success in business and government.  The monolithic organization has become out of step with the interconnected world and the requirement to leverage each others capabilities, to form coalitions and to partner effectively.  This is demonstrated by everything from the need of our military to form joint international operations to the need for agencies to use each others services, and stop creating redundant capabilities.  However, a stove piped and closed mentality is part of our culture and processes.  Transforming this culture into one of a collaborative environment of shared resources will be a challenge for the government - or any large organization.  Those that do it successfully will prosper.

The difficulty of this transformation can't be underestimated, and the cost of failures is very high - architecting the change is vital.  The architecture of collaboration is supported by understanding the resources and services each organization has and those that it may offer to others, this is represented by an "enterprise service oriented architecture" in the large.  How this is achieved requires that we understand how to design our business processes for collaboration - and how to make those new processes as efficient as possible.  We can't leverage what we don't understand - so the architecture of the information about each others resources, information and services is a vital asset.

Technology Support

Our current society is digitally based - we could not run the government without our "Enterprise Digital Assistants" (EDA).  Most interactions with organizations are digital or digitally assisted, most processes are facilitated by computers and most information is now published digitally.  A more efficient and collaborative and open government must rely on this reality and be able to realize its processes, services and information requirements quickly and easily with computer technologies.

Computer technologies are transforming as well, from the closed backroom of accounting to the collaborative front of the organization.  We must embrace the capabilities to directly leverage and facilitate our business architectures with technology support - quickly, reliably, securely and efficiently.  Business services, processes and information should translate to technology support in weeks, not years - supporting the collaborative efforts of the organization.  We need a factory-like efficiency in going from requirement to solution.  At the technology level Service oriented Architecture plays a role as well - in providing the digital pathways for collaboration. 

Collaboration also requires information - information that is pervasively available and understandable.  This requires application of open data technologies and semantics, so that we can understand each others information and services.