From the “while we were sleeping” desk, the Obama administration has been quietly making good on their promises for a more open and transparent government.
Part of this can be seen on the cover of Today’s NY Times. The press can now cover the return of war dead from the Iraqi and Afghani theatres. Prior to this, the press was prohibited from directly photographing the return of dead soldiers.
As we’ve seen, it’s the policy reversal that’s covered more than the caskets themselves. The actual daylighting of government actions, is the story here.
In the recent stimulus package, projects included needed to meet specific requirements for transparency. How the stimulus package was being spent was at the top of that agenda. It was merely philosophically important to the administration that this money be spent properly. It was actually codified into the package that if you received that money, you needed to make the public aware of how much you spent and how you spent it. And you needed to make that, and other information, available via RSS so that the public had a better chance of collecting and analyzing that information.
The White House has an official photostream which is creative commons licensed. What does this mean for bloggers and the general population? We now have a set of constantly updated photos of what’s happening in the White House to use when writing about what’s actually happening in the White House.
We also have an official glimpse into what goes on in the White House and with key cabinet members daily. Major news sources will still provide us with details, surely, but the stream is simultaneously a good will gesture, an inexpensive resource, and a catalyst for conversation.
There is certainly a long ways to go. Information sharing in more complicated (and more vital) areas will certainly take time. The FBI’s Investigative Data Warehouse is taking some time to find its place in the post-transparency world. And that certainly isn’t the only area needing an overhaul.
But, to a very real extent, the entire labyrinthine world of the government needs this overhaul and that’s going to take more than a couple months of figuring out.