Making Data More Accessible

a proactive Transparency Officer at each agency

Each agency should have a staff member who is responsible for seeking out and publishing agency records and databases online to the greatest degree possible.


PROBLEM: The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is inherently a reactive process rather than a proactive process. A FOIA officer's job entails reacting when someone requests a document or record from an agency. The public does not always know what records are available. Most agencies currently have no individual or individuals tasked with the responsibility for proactively making records available, other than public affairs staff members who have responsibilities that are not necessarily consistent with this objective. Currently, even when an agency employee believes that certain types of records should be public, it is not always easy to get the records published on the agency website. Some records that would be useful to the public, and which would be releasable if requested, are available only on internal, employees-only intranet websites, and the public has no way to find out they even exist.


SOLUTION: Every Agency should be required to have a Transparency Officer, just as they do a FOIA Officer. The Transparency Officer would be responsible for proactively making available to the public the Agency's records (documents, databases, reports, meeting minutes, etc.) In contrast to FOIA, the proactive Transparency Officer's job begins the instant records are assembled within the agency, or even when they are created. He or she must be constantly thinking, "What data and documents does our Agency have, and how can we best and most transparently share them with the public?" One advantage of performing this function would be a reduction in the number of FOIA requests and the need for such requests because the information would already be posted online.

Why Is This Idea Important?

The promotion of transparency needs an advocate or champion within each agency. This would help make many federal agency records available to the public. Currently, there is no real independent impetus for publication of many useful agency records, and even if someone happened to find out about an important records set and requested it, it would not necessarily be made available to the public.



29 votes
Idea No. 923