White House wiki, open for business

The Obama administration has taken another step down the path to the an open, Web-accessible government, today unveiling an initiative to collect suggestions on open government from anyone who’s interested in chiming in with an idea.

The White House opened a new section of its site, WhiteHouse.gov/Open, where people can contribute ideas on open government.

The White House is planning to move forward with the open-government initiative in three phases. The first, which opened today and runs through May 28, is a brainstorming session hosted.

Then, from June 3 through June 14, the administration will hold a discussion phase, where the ideas on open government proposed in the brainstorming session will be winnowed down to coherent topics and examined more closely.

Finally, the drafting phase is slated to run from June 15 through June 19. During that time, the public will be able to use a wiki to collaboratively draft open government recommendations.

“This will help us achieve a new foundation for our government — a foundation built on the values of transparency, accountability, and responsibility,” White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett said in a statement. “This is a chance to brainstorm ideas, discuss the most promising ones, and collaborate with one another on next steps.”

After the drafting stage wraps up, the White House’s CTO will work with the Office of Management and Budget and the General Service Administration to develop formal proposals for open government. Following that review, OMB will issue an Open Government Directive to the agencies.

The administration also launched the Data.gov Web site today, aimed at making large government data sets available to the public in machine-readable format.

These latest initiatives, along with many other sites the White House has launched in the last four months, are billed as an outgrowth of Obama’s Jan. 21 memo on open government. In it, he called for remaking government along the broad principles of transparency, participation and collaboration, ideas that pretty well get at the heart of wiki culture.

How far the new site will stretch into the crafting of policy remains to be seen. But it’s hard to argue with opening the lines of communication — assuming there’s an army of people on the other end to make sense of the comments.

Here’s Jarrett talking up the initiative:

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