An Open Government Prospectus, version 0.6

The task for every government entity is to open all the machinery it has within its control.


Three movements are combining to transform government at all levels. Those movements are:

  1. Open Source. The use of open source software tools has enabled governments to adopt new technologies overnight. Tools can be downloaded and tried without a lengthy procurement process or budgeting. The cost to run or maintain them can be insignificant compared to previous generations of commercial systems. Government agencies, universities, foundations, and private industries collaboratively create and then share these tools with others.
  2. Open Data. The internet has allowed the 'publication' or 'syndication' of data sets and time-based services at a level never before imagined. A service agency has many kinds of static and dynamic data that can be shared with its partners and the public. A government agency has many records and other live data such as recycling and facility information that should be search-able or otherwise made useful.
  3. Open Government. Citizens expect transparency in government, not just with records and money, but with processes. Feedback and participation must be designed into decision-making rather than incorporated after the fact. Use of on-line social media must be balanced with off-line citizen engagements.

The challenges of open government extend into many areas which are a concern for all (such as open voting) but are not the responsibility of every branch or arm of government. The task for every government entity is to open all the machinery it has within its control.

Links to more extensive descriptions of these movements on Wikipedia are given below.


These conferences reflect the gathering momentum of the Open Government movement.

OpenGovWest, March 26-27, 2010, Seattle, Washington.
'Open Savvy' Seattle Mayor Michael McGinn kicked it off. The CIO for NY Senate gave the keynote. People from Canada, Washington, Oregon, Chile, etc, attended. City of Portland, Trimet, and Metro were represented. An open government conference was held recently in New England, prior to the west coast version.

GOV 2.0, May 2010, Washington, DC.
Government has an extraordinary responsibility to harness the best, most efficient systems for delivering citizen services and overcoming the barriers of complexity and bureaucracy. In turn, citizens have a mandate to contribute to the progress of their governing bodies.

The rise of Government 2.0 signals the emergence of IT innovation and the Web as a platform for fostering efficiencies within government and citizen participation. How can we harness these innovations to decrease waste and increase productivity?

Government Open Source Convention.
GOSCON originated in Portland as a follow-on to the general-topic OSCON. GOSCON was last held in November, 2009, in Washington, DC. See GOSCON on Wikipedia.

A Book

Open Government / Collaboration, Transparency, and Participation in Practice. Published in February, 2010, by O'Reilly.

About: In a world where web services can make real-time data accessible to anyone, how can the government leverage this openness to improve its operations and increase citizen participation and awareness? Through a collection of essays and case studies, leading visionaries and practitioners both inside and outside of government share their ideas on how to achieve and direct this emerging world of online collaboration, transparency, and participation.

You can view the complete Table of Contents (Click to expand the 34 chapters and subsection titles!) as well as read the Chapters 1-8 on the O'Reilly site.

Obama Administration

We can expect the principles being implemented in Washington DC to 'come down' to the states and local government.

About Open Government

Open Government Initiative

Open Government Directive, December 8, 2009.

Transparency and Open Government

Open Government Dashboard

Open Cities

Article about Portland Openness Source & Data transparency.

Vancouver, BC
Council Motion on Open Data, Open Standards, Open Source.

San Francisco
DataSF is a clearinghouse of datasets available from the City & County of San Francisco.


New York
Data Mine.

See Open Muni Wiki for more!

Open States

Vermont passed an Open Source provision on March 2, 2010. Story.

Open Data & Open Source Policy.

Other states have tried but been defeated by lobbyists.

It's an Open World

This is a global movement. South America, Canada, Europe, China, Southeast Asia, Australia, and parts of Africa all have open source, data, and government movements. Some countries have more or less open data and/or government, but all are embracing open source software. Example:

The European Open Source Observatory and Repository.

Open People and Organizations

Mitch Kapor, Philanthropist
Presented Thinking About "Government as a Platform", at Gov 2.0 Summit September 11, 2009. Here is an 8-minute YouTube Video worth watching. A Wikipedia page about Mitchell Kapor.

Andrew Hoppin, NY Senate CIO
The Office of the CIO helps the Senate leverage technology and information in order to create a more transparent legislature, serve constituents more effectively, and provide New Yorkers the means to take a more participatory role in state government. NY Senate Home Page | NY Senate CIO home page | Slide Show (tour) of what the young CIO accomplished in a year!

Bill Welty, CIO California Air Resources Board
The CARB has an open IT infrastructure. Interview.

Deb Bryant
Deborah Bryant is Public Sector Communities Manager at Oregon State University's Open Source Lab (OSL), where she advocates and creates collaboration between public, private and academic concerns in pursuit of the successful adoption of open source technology and models. She leads OSL's production of the annual Government Open Source Conference (GOSCON). Bryant's Blog.

David Eaves, Open Activist
Canadian Public Policy Entrepreneur, Negotiator. David has a chapter in the Open Government book. About David.

Douglas Schuler, Evergreen State College professor
Doug is president of the Public Sphere Project. He has a chapter — Online Deliberation and Civic Intelligence - in the Open Government book. Doug is also the author/editor of LIBERATING VOICES — a pattern language for communication revolution.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web
At the upcoming Gov 2.0 conference, Berners-Lee will present Linked Open Data and Gov 2.0: The vision of a democratic society in which government and citizens can create, share, access, be informed and empowered by an open Web of data and services is materializing daily. Existing data not yet on the Web is a valuable but unused asset. Putting it on the Web turns on this value, boosts the economy through greater efficiency and new business models, and boosts democracy by informing and engaging citizens.

Tim O'Reilly, publisher, philosopher
O'Reilly coined the phrase "Government as a Platform". O'Reilly Media holds many conferences, including the Open Source Convention, OSCON, to be held at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland July 19-23, 2010. Byline: There is big change in technology and society, and open source is making it happen.

Code for America
Code for America was founded to help the brightest minds of the Web 2.0 generation transform city governments. Cities are under greater pressure than ever, struggling with budget cuts and outdated technology. What if, instead of cutting services or raising taxes, cities could leverage the power of the web to become more efficient, transparent, and participatory?

Activities in the Region

The region is home to many aspects of the open source movement, including Linus Torvalds who started it on fire with his implementation of "Linux" when he was a student in Helsinki in the early 1990's. Linus now lives in Dunthorpe. Open Source activities are all around the region, foundations, business incubators, etc.

City of Portland is holding a "Civic App Contest" to fund one project using publicly available data. The Canadian government just announced a similar contest for applications that will interpret climate change data for citizens.

OSCON, an international conference, considers Portland its home. The conference has grown in size over the years to use the Oregon Convention Center!

The Open Source Bridge conference was started when O'Reilly forsook Portland one year and held OSCON in California! The Bridge conference has taken on a life of its own, with a distinctive local flavor.

What is Open?

Compiled by John Miller, Portland, Oregon, March 2010