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February 2, 2010

Thoughts about the budget

If you live in or have visited the Washington area anytime in recent months, you may have noticed Adobe’s Open Government campaign in some form or fashion. As a supporter of the Administration’s efforts to drive openness and transparency, we’ve taken a sincere interest in any related activities, including the recent Open Government Directive. To date, we’ve participated with a number of our customers, including, for example, the Department of State, the Pentagon, the Government Printing Office and others, to discover better ways to leverage the technologies they already have in place, resulting in citizens and constituents who are better connected to their government. Information is being shared in more collaboratively, engaging people into the business of government in more meaningful ways.

As a reader of this blog, you most likely know what time of year it is, it the time when the federal government unveils it’s new budget. Like most interested parties, we took the time to parse through the information looking at how the budget is to be allocated in the future. As we scoured through the document, we kept an eye out for any specific budget areas related to Open Government. Initially, there was some surprise that given all the recent attention to Open Government, there was no clear section of the budget dedicated to it. We did, however, come across the section entitled “Communicate Performance Coherently and Concisely for Better Results and Transparency”, which is focused on government performance measurements. This section states, “The Administration will create a Federal performance portal that provides a clear, concise picture of Federal goals and measures by theme, by agency, by program, and by program type. It will be designed to increase transparency and coherence for the public.” Of course, this is a fine example of open government, however, shouldn’t there be more?

And then the “A-HA” moment came. The ideals and concepts of open government are not intended to be discreet budget items, rather, they are the spirit under which all government programs, processes and services should be designed and delivered. The tenets of transparency, participation and collaboration, as called out by the Administration, should be baked into every aspect of government, from the public sharing of financial data to the ways in which an agency engages with an individual citizen in time of need.

The budget should be seen as a blueprint for specific, definable outcomes and programs and Open Government concepts should be the framework upon which services are delivered.