3 min read

Day one, Obama calls for open government

UPDATE: the memo is already posted on the whitehouse.gov site for anyone to review! How refreshing!

During this, his first day in office, President Obama called for open government, and issued a memorandum which spells out to approach the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) “with a clear presumption: in the face of doubt, openness prevails.” This presumption of openness is in direct contrast with limits the Bush administration put in place, a fact driven home by the last line of the memo: Sec. 6. Revocation. Executive Order 13233 of November 1, 2001, is revoked.. Now we’re talking! More of the memo reads:

All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA. The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public. They should not wait for specific requests from the public. All agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their Government. Disclosure should be timely.

But wait, there’s more…

Meanwhile, in a paper requested by the new Obama administration team, Scott McNealy, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems talks about technology and reaches the conclusion that, “The secret to a more secure and cost effective government is through open source technologies and products.” As if that weren’t enough for a FOSS love-fest for geeks, he goes on with viewpoints…

“It’s intuitively obvious open source is more cost effective and productive than proprietary software. Open source does not require you to pay a penny to Microsoft or IBM or Oracle or any proprietary vendor any money. […] The government ought to mandate open source products based on open source reference implementations to improve security, get higher quality software, lower costs, higher reliability - all the benefits that come with open software. […] It’s intuitively obvious open source is more cost effective and productive than proprietary software.”

And lastly, there’s a new technology agenda posted on the new whitehouse.gov that bodes well for those interested in a neutral Internet, with a right to privacy being a central focus:

Ensure the Full and Free Exchange of Ideas through an Open Internet and Diverse Media Outlets

  • Protect the Openness of the Internet: Support the principle of network neutrality to preserve the benefits of open competition on the Internet.
  • Encourage Diversity in Media Ownership: Encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation’s spectrum.
  • Protect Our Children While Preserving the First Amendment: Give parents the tools and information they need to control what their children see on television and the Internet in ways fully consistent with the First Amendment. Support tough penalties, increase enforcement resources and forensic tools for law enforcement, and encourage collaboration between law enforcement and the private sector to identify and prosecute people who try to exploit children online.
  • Safeguard our Right to Privacy: Strengthen privacy protections for the digital age and harness the power of technology to hold government and business accountable for violations of personal privacy.

So far, so very, very good - thanks Mr. Obama, bringing openness back to our government and a fresh outlook on open source is going to make a huge difference not only for our government, but throughout our society.