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GSA ChallengePost: End-to-End Open Government

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Open Government

Open Government is understood by its advocacy base as a logical union of participatory government and transparent government.  The basic concept is that if the government’s approach to operations, decision-making and data were changed to enable citizens to effectively scrutinize their public officials in an unfiltered light, provide a more direct say in legislation and action, and build services and applications from the raw data the government generates in its studies and operations, that democracy could evolve and our government would be much more effective.

There are a number of organizations which advocate for these concepts in different ways and with some specific goals as a part of the overall movement, such as the Sunlight Foundation, the Open Society Institute and O’Reilly’s Gov2.0 conference.  On their own they are great things worth fighting for.  However, there are many issues that are systemically preventing a true open government transformation from fully taking place.

The aim of this challenge is to bring together all of the systemic reform conditions necessary to remove the creaky hinges and unnecessary locks on our governmental system, from the beginnings of elections through the way Congress can respond to crises.  This may not be everything (and if it is not, please put addenda in the comments) but I believe that these are the basic, operational fixes that our political system needs to leave the real work – study, innovation and input from citizens – ready to be done.  The challenge will be successfully completed when comprehensive legislative, technical and operational solutions are established for these issues and converted into law and custom.

Solution Requirements


  • National election standards requiring fully free and open source voting machinery and software which is publicly auditable and leaves a paper trail, and the necessary hardware and software to meet this standard
  • Change the election system from municipalities to Presidential elections to range voting and hold no primaries, maintain the secret ballot and eliminate party registration requirements
  • Allow and facilitate Internet voting and release the anonymous voting data to the public via an open API
  • Require all elections to be 100% publicly funded and disallow private donations to candidates, with a special focus to nurture newly-enabled (thanks to range voting) smaller parties and candidates

Congressional Governance

  • End filibusters by requiring simple up-or-down votes in both Houses of Congress for all legislation that is not a treaty or a Constitutional amendment
  • Enable Congress to react much faster to issues and crises, such as the BP oil spill, the stagnant economy and lack of sustainable technology development and empowerment

Open Data

  • Legally require all non-classified data, including raw metadata, to be open to the public as soon as it is affirmed as valid and usable by the government.  This includes creating a public, extensible and standard way of handling and analyzing such data.
  • Reduce the terms of classification on most kinds of government data
  • Recognize Constitutional privacy rights as pertaining to online communications


The government has pledged to reward successful entries.

Intellectual Property

All of the basic documents and software requirements for this challenge will, when implemented, be placed into the public domain.  Further innovations on this solution have no license requirement.



Written by Preston

June 14th, 2010 at 8:00 am

2 Responses to 'GSA ChallengePost: End-to-End Open Government'

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  1. The Sunlight Foundation has developed something small, but exemplary, in this subject re: the Elena Kagan nomination for Supreme Court justice.

    From Matt Yglesias:

    The crew over at the Sunlight Foundation have done the country a great service by taking the Elena Kagan email document dump and organizing it into a searchable, gmail-inspired database that lets us actually put the public disclosure to some kind of use. This is great. People like me don’t necessarily spend as much time thinking about technical reforms that can help improve the political process, but obviously such things can actually play a crucial role in determining whether disclosure is meaningful or not.

    Preston´s last blog ..The Long City Beneath My Feet


    23 Jun 10 at 23:48

  2. Ditto Matt. I 100% agree that the Sunlight Foundation are doing a sterling job, but although I stand behind the initiative, it always bothers me that we won’t ever truly get to “open government”. Such a thing is wonderful in theory, but is it practical?


    6 Feb 12 at 07:02

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