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Open Government: A Guide to the Federal Dashboards

dashOpen government is a major priority for the Obama White House, and top officials like Federal CIO Vivek Kundra and CTO Aneesh Chopra are vocal supporters of making agency budget and regulatory information publicly available online.  Below, we’ve chronicled some of the federal government’s open government success stories.

OIRA Dashboard

OIRA dashboard

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) launched its first dashboard last week, on February 16.  On the front page (Pictured above) you can check which agency has the most regulatory actions currently under review, pending actions by rule stage, regulatory news and policy updates from OIRA.

You can use the intuitive drop-down menus to access information sorted by agency, rule stage, length of review or even economic significance.

The site is a prime example of interagency cooperation, as it is produced by OIRA, OMB, GSA, and the Regulatory Information Service Center (RISC).

Recovery.Gov

recovery.gov

Recovery.gov is the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board’s website, which manages the site and oversees spending under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

The site is designed to track recovery spending by zip code, state, total funds awarded and received, type of grant (entitlement, contract or tax break) and even recipient-reported jobs.  While some may criticize the data itself (which is largely attributed to errors by reporting parties, not recovery.gov itself) the site is simple, intuitive and very easy to use.

Recovery.gov has helped pave the way to accomplishing the White House’s goals of fostering greater citizen engagement and increased transparency through the Internet.

OMB’s Federal IT Dashboard

federal-it-dashboard-home-pageThe OMB’s Federal IT Dashboard, brainchild of Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, tracks federal IT dollars across all government agencies.

By clicking on the graph to the left, you can pull up a breakdown of IT contracts (by count or by dollar amount) and what their status is.

The status of IT contracts is broken into three categories of “Overall Rating:” Normal, Needs Attention, and Serious Concerns.

By cross-referencing this dashboard with the OIRA’s newly-released dashboard (see above), you can get a pretty accurate picture of how and why IT spending is distributed.

Bottom Line

Dashboards are great: they give users easy access to digestible data.  They keep accusations of hiding data in plain sight at bay with their use of color-coded, 3-D charts, but they’re only as good as their data.  If they’re not updated regularly, or worse, updated with bad data, they quickly lose their effectiveness.

But, assuming the data is current and quality, having several dashboards for comparisons can provide an excellent research resource.  For example, if you notice that a large number of contracts for a particular agency are listed as having “Serious Concerns,” you can cross-reference that data with OIRA’s dashboard to find out the source of the trouble.

So while dashboards aren’t perfect, they’re a powerful tool for public engagement and are a big step in meeting the White House’s ambitious transparency goals.

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