Summary of New GSA Open Government Commitments 2014-2016
Section 1: New Flagship Initiative
1.1 Contact USA: The First Machine Readable Federal Government Contact Directory
For most citizens, the Federal government is a large and complex entity. There are more than departments and agencies and more than 350 component offices. For those not already familiar with the functions of the various agencies, it's difficult to decipher which agencies are responsible for a particular issue, and how to contact the right office within an agency.
The GSA, working in conjunction with the Office of Management and Budget, the National Archives and Records Administration, Office of Personnel Management and others, will produce a consolidated dataset of the names of federal agencies, component offices, and contact information.
While information about agencies, sub-agencies, hierarchical relationships, and contact information exist in various sources, there was no effort to merge the information into a structured dataset to make it easier for citizens to search for relevant offices and find the contact information they need.
Citizens may have to make hit-or-miss efforts to locate the information about the Federal agencies and components they need to contact and have to try several different websites or contact channels. Contact USA would be an extension of an existing National Action Plan commitment for a machine-readable organizational chart for the Federal Government and provide an up-to-date, comprehensive dataset of Federal agencies and component offices with contact information.
A comprehensive Federal Government directory would improve the functioning of all agencies by making it easier for citizens to locate the agencies and information or services they need. The Contact USA directory would enhance transparency, participation, and collaboration as citizens would not have to hunt for contact information from a variety of existing sources.
In addition to improving public access, a comprehensive directory would be useful to the Federal agencies themselves, by making it easier to locate other agencies/components for collaboration. As with the Federal agency organizational chart, GSA would work with OMB, NARA, OPM, and other Federal partners as needed to develop the dataset/directory.
Section 2: Open Data
2.1 Make it Easier for Individuals to Access Their Own Information
In addition to providing protections for Federal information, including information about individuals, the government has certain obligations to give individuals the ability to review information about themselves that the government has collected. When members of the public seek information about themselves from government agencies, they traditionally submit signed statements to authenticate that they are legitimate requesters.
2.2 Support Open311 to Enhance Transparency and Participation
Open311 is a transparent, participatory way for governments to deliver services to citizens. Its name comes from the commonly used 311 phone number that residents can dial in some cities to report non-emergency complaints or request services. Open311 is a shared open platform that can be integrated either online through a city’s website or via a smartphone application. It allows citizens to find government services and report problems in the open, providing a simple and consistent way to contact government and get something fixed. To reduce the burden of navigating the separation between local and Federal government, the USA.gov Contact Center at the GSA will use Open311 to expand avenues for public participation and provide more transparency in government service delivery across both local and Federal governments. More than a dozen cities have already adopted Open311 and additional cities are committing to implement it including San Diego, Philadelphia, and New York City.
2.4 Promote Public Feedback Tools to Facilitate the Release of Open Data.
The U.S. Open Data Policy directs agencies to engage with data users to prioritize release of open government data, and agencies approach this requirement in a variety of ways. The Office of Management and Budget and the GSA will work with Federal agencies to promote consistent, customer-friendly feedback mechanisms on opening new datasets and improving existing datasets.
2.5 Launch and Support the U.S. Data Federation
The U.S. Data Federation will support government-wide data standardization and data federation initiatives across both Federal agencies and local governments. This is intended to be a fundamental coordinating mechanism for a more open and interconnected digital government by profiling and supporting use-cases that demonstrate unified and coherent data architectures across disparate government agencies. These examples will highlight emerging data standards and API initiatives across all levels of government, convey the level of maturity for each effort, and facilitate greater participation by government agencies. Initiatives that may be profiled within the U.S. Data Federation include Open311, DOT’s National Transit Map, the Project Open Data metadata schema, Contact USA, and the Police Data Initiative. As part of the U.S. Data Federation, GSA will also pilot the development of reusable components needed for a successful data federation strategy including schema documentation tools, schema validation tools, and automated data aggregation and normalization capabilities. The U.S. Data Federation will provide more sophisticated and seamless opportunities on the foundation of U.S. open data initiatives by allowing the public to more easily do comparative data analysis across government bodies and create applications that work across multiple government agencies.
2.6 Introduce API and other Enhancements to Analytics.USA.gov
In December 2014, GSA’s Digital Analytics Program (DAP) began working with 18F, USDS, and the White House OSTP to create a dashboard for federal government web traffic.
In March 2015, analytics.usa.gov, the first U.S. Federal Government website to display aggregated web analytics data, was launched. The site offers transparency of the pages and sites visited by the public, as well as the technology used and general location of visits for over 5,000 federal websites across 45 agencies. In addition to visualizations of the information, downloads in .json and .csv formats are available so that the public can use the data. Even the code behind the site itself is open-source, and the team regularly implements new features based on public suggestions.
Since launch, the team has continued to open more datasets and expand the breadth of the site, including adding 25 agency-specific pages and dedicated data download pages. In the future, we will implement an API, so that the public will have even easier access to trend information and insights drawn from the web analytics data.
Section 3: Open Innovation Methods
3.1 Redesign Challenge.gov as a Platform.
Challenge.gov is the government’s website that catalogues opportunities for the public to provide solutions to issues that government is working to address such as providing better access to services for veterans and empowering women and families. In 2016, the United States will launch a new version of Challenge.gov to make it easier for the public to discover, understand, and participate in prizes and challenges. The GSA will also release an open source version of Challenge.gov to enable implementation by governments around the world to improve citizen engagement, encourage entrepreneurship, and develop breakthrough solutions to meet national needs.
3.2 Coordinate Open Innovation Opportunities Across Government with Innovation Toolkit and CitizenScience.gov
Federal agencies will catalog their current open innovation activities including prizes, challenges, citizen science, and crowdsourcing activities. Agencies will list all prizes and challenges on Challenge.gov. In addition, the GSA will create a new project database that lists citizen science and crowdsourcing projects 13 from across government. To continue to build the evidence base for open innovation, agencies will contribute metrics-driven case studies for open innovation activities to the Open Innovation Toolkit.
GSA launched CitizenScience.gov to accelerate the use of crowdsourcing and citizen science across government by providing a searchable catalog of federally supported citizen science projects, a toolkit to assist with designing and maintaining projects, and a gateway to a federal community of practice to share best practices.
3.3 Redesign Open.GSA.gov Portal
Open.gsa.gov is an Open Innovation Initiative in the Office of the Chief Technical Officer’s Digital Service divison. As the current developer portal for all GSA data, APIs, and code open to the public, the site acts as a resource for developers who are interested in building applications using GSA data and web services. In late 2016, a new version of Open.gsa.gov will be launched with a refreshed design emphasizing a user-focused experience and increased engagement with the public.
Section 4: Public Participation
4.1 Improve and Report on Implementation of the U.S. Public Participation Playbook
In 2015 the Administration launched the U.S. Public Participation Playbook, Participation.USA.gov, developed by the GSA with contributions from six dozen federal managers, as a template providing best practices, resources, and performance metrics to encourage public participation in government decision-making. The GSA will work with the Administration and stakeholders to update and improve the U.S. Public Participation Playbook based on feedback from agencies, civil society, and the public, and begin publicly sharing how the playbook’s resources are implemented in order to improve public participation in government.
4.2 Conduct Feedback USA Pilots
Feedback USA is a pilot program to improve customer experience where citizens use the federal government the most. Customers applying at Department of State passport agencies/centers, SSA card centers, U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service Centers, VA benefit centers, and GSA’s Quantico base store will now get the chance to have their say. Customers will be able to provide quick feedback through a less-than-a-second tap of a button at a kiosk and can provide additional feedback through the agency’s website. Agency partners will see this anonymous feedback in real time, so they can act quickly to resolve any issues and improve their services to the public.
The initiative for Feedback USA is a part of an administration priority to improve customer service. The Customer Service Cross Agency Priority Goal, established in 2014 is led by the Office of Management and Budget and SSA. The pilot is scheduled to last for one year with quarterly phases to help evaluate usefulness.
4.3 Expand and Improve Public Participation in the Development of Regulations with eRegulations
Rulemaking covers public policy issues including energy, education, homeland security, agriculture, food safety, environmental protection, health care, tax administration, and transportation safety. Public participation in Federal rulemaking provides individuals a meaningful opportunity to comment on these policy issues. The open source eRegulations platform has been expanded and is being used by additional government agencies including the FEC and ATF. The GSA’s 18F team created a pilot project in 2016 for collecting public comment on proposed regulations to allow more granular commenting on proposals down to the paragraph level rather than just one text field for the entire regulation. The GSA will continue to expand and improve upon the eRegulations platform with continued user research and adding new agency users.
4.4 Share Best Practices and Strategy on Yelp for Government and Other “Voice of the Customer” Programs
Yelp, a Web and mobile-based user review platform, hosts insights from “real people giving their honest and personal opinions on everything from restaurants and spas to coffee shops.” With the addition of Public Services and Government under the Yelp umbrella, agencies can continue to find new ways to use customer insights to improve citizen services. Since the GSA helped Yelp meet federal use standards, agencies are now able to use Yelp to potentially: - Claim existing pages or launch new pages to listen and respond to customer comments - Use customer feedback data to drive improvements in citizen services.
The GSA will continue to help agencies pilot Yelp and other “Voice of the Customer” services, sharing best practices and strategies for adapting these platforms for public service use.
Section 6: Participation in Transparency Initiatives
6.1 Reconstitute USA.gov as the Front Door to the U.S. Government
For a government to truly be open, the public must be able to find information about government activities and services. Established by the e-Government Act of 2002 as the official web portal of the U.S. Government, USA.gov has a long history of connecting millions of citizens to the government information and services they need. Recently re-launched to be more responsive to users, USA.gov has become a more efficient and adaptive publishing platform for Federal, state, and local governments. Going forward, the GSA will implement additional user-centered enhancements, including delivering enhanced content, and will work with agencies to help the public identify and receive services they need based on their own goals rather than government structure.
6.2 Review and Report Accessibility Compliance of Federal Websites through Pulse.CIO.gov
By creating and implementing software code that can assist in evaluating the accessibility of websites across the government, the United States will increase the government’s ability to assess accessibility of Federal information for citizen consumers and Federal workers with disabilities. The GSA will expand the transparent reporting platform pulse.cio.gov to measure performance of all Federal web domains against web policy requirements and industry best practices, while connecting domain owners to information and resources to better ensure that their sites comply with the requirements of Section 508.
6.3 Develop Limited-English-Proficiency Policies and Programs
Recipients of Federal financial assistance through the GSA will have policies and practices in place to provide meaningful access to limited English-proficient individuals. The GSA will conduct outreach and training efforts with its employees and recipients of Federal assistance to inform these policies and programs.
6.4 Allow users to authenticate official third party accounts and mobile apps with the U.S. Digital Registry
Official government websites are easy to recognize because they end in domain names like .gov and .mil. Increasingly, however, citizens choose to access their services, ask questions and participate through third-party platforms like Facebook, Yelp, Twitter and Github. Citizens shouldn’t have to hunt for the critical information they need across bureaucratic silos and emerging platforms, or second guess if the person who is engaging with them on the other side of the connection is who they say they are. The GSA will expand use of the The U.S. Digital Registry, an API-generating platform which currently authenticates almost 10,000 third party accounts and mobile apps, including developing a public-facing browser of official accounts for anyone to use.
6.5 Expand and Enhance Public-Facing Resources on The Acquisition Gateway
The Acquisition Gateway, built by the GSA, is a procurement workspace that provides accurate, useful, and unbiased advice to both federal employees and the public. Through a careful vetting process and collaboration with agency partners, in the interest of transparency, we launched a public view of the Acquisition Gateway on February 5, 2016. This includes:
- Statement of work library with SOWs, SOOs, or performance based work statements that have been used in solicitations and identified by the category manager as valuable examples.
- Expert articles submitted for sharing best practices or case studies.
- Descriptions of contract vehicles.
By placing this information in a central repository, it provides immense value to the procurement community. Previously, only federal employees could visit the Gateway. Now the citizen, vendor community, and state and local government employees may use it in this capacity. The GSA will continue developing public-facing resources on The Acquisition Gateway based on public feedback and prioritization of business need.
6.6 Develop a public-facing dashboard for reporting activities and initiatives within inter-agency Digital Communities
The GSA’s Digital Communities unite federal teams with 9,000 memberships across 14 active mission areas—the largest and most active inter-agency network of transformative federal government managers—as critical mission hubs that provide a platform for sharing, developing and implementing strategies.
Their contributions include the introduction of citizen voice platforms like Yelp for public services and Artificial Intelligence for customer service, the support of more than 700 prizes and competitions, inter-Community platforms like the U.S. Digital Registry, development of the U.S. Public Participation Playbook and other resources for Cyber-Security and Accessibility for persons with Disabilities, and mobile products that put services in the hands of citizens.
The GSA will develop a dashboard on for reporting major activities within the 14 Digital Communities so the public can see inter-agency initiatives as they develop and request information or offer feedback into the process.