Sunday, February 16, 2014

Is the Government Really as "Open" as It Purports to Be?

The Whitehouse's Open Government Initiative purports to promote Transparency, Participation and Collaboration between the U.S. Government and the American people.  It probably was at one time.  But I'm not so sure it is quite so much anymore.

As my com padre and I were evaluating the Whitehouse's Open Government Initiative website (, we were pleasantly surprised at how much information was now fairly readily available to the general public.  We walked the class through the navigation of the website and displayed how to access data the various Executive Agencies have made public.

A few of the negatives seemed to be:

1)  the Open Govt Initiative does not seem to be quite as participatory and collaborative as it once was;

2)  the website offers much information, but it is not intuitive or easily searchable;

and the most glaring defect was

3) searching for "open" on the site does not take you to the Open Gov Initiative page with the live links.

The last point was so egregious that I had to act.  I emailed the problem to the single email contact provided on the Open Gov Initiative site (it was challenging to locate):

Sent: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 8:48 AM
Subject: Case sensitive

Dear Webmasters for the Greater Good,

For one of my classes, I've had to research the Open Government Initiative area of the website.

I have found that getting to the Open Government Initiative "homepage" requires the user to know that the link is case sensitive on the word "open".   "Open" takes the user to a different page -- one that looks similar, mind you, but it lacks the internal links to the subsequent Open Govt pages.  

I've attached a pdf of the screenshots for both.

Additionally, when a user searches on "open" or "open government initiative" in the search tool, the first result returned is the "Open".  Essentially, if the user does not know about the case sensitivity, they cannot reliably get to the homepage of the  Open Government Initiative.

Is this the intent?   


I did indeed attach the PDF screenshot:

It's been 20 days since I first gave them a heads up.  Sadly, nothing has changed on the website and I have yet to hear back from anyone on this.  

So, I am forced to deduce that this Administration (since it's really the Administration's objective) is not really as "open" as it purports to be.  It seems more to be talk than anything else really.

If I'm wrong..., show me the money :-)

Jay Zee

No comments:

Post a Comment