Social Security Administration (SSA)
Open Government Plan: One Year Later
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On April 7, 2010, we joined numerous agencies across the federal government in publishing our first-ever Open Government Plan. In it, we laid out specific milestones for increasing transparency, participation and collaboration at Social Security.
We have worked actively throughout the past year, carrying out key open government activities, including three Flagship Initiatives and other efforts to make Open Government (OG) more sustainable at Social Security. We’ve also taken steps to engage the public and other stakeholders and constituencies, to foster the use of the data we’ve released, and gain insight from them on new data needs. We’ll continue these efforts as we move forward to carry out our plan.
Here’s a timeline of just some of our achievements so far:
- April 7, 2010: Launch of Open Government (OG) Plan
- April 7 – May 19, 2010: Online public engagement to get comments and ideas on OG Plan
- May 19, 2010: Meeting with agency partners and advocacy groups on OG Plan elements
- June 24, 2010: Publication of revised OG Plan, ranked 6th place by openthegovernment.org
- July 14, 2010: Open Government Employee Awareness Day at SSA HQ; keynote speech by Beth Noveck, White House Lead for OG
- July 9, 2010: Completion of first OG Flagship, Life Expectancy Calculator
- July 27, 2010: Launch of first public video contest, “How Social Security Has Made a Difference in My Life”
- September 30, 2010: Announcement of video contest winner, Social Security: Real Stories
- September 30, 2010: Release of Data Inventory Plan
- October 13, 2010: Launch of redesigned Open Government Portal
- October 13, 2010: Launch of GIS data inventory and visualization contract
- November 15, 2010: Completion of second OG Flagship, Online Service Enhancement (enhanced home page)
- December 6 – 17, 2010: Online public engagement to get comments and ideas on next Agency Strategic Plan
- December 22, 2010: Completion of third OG Flagship, Spanish-language Retirement Estimator
- December 31, 2010: Release of more datasets to Data.gov
- March 10, 2011: Webinar broadcast to college students and young workers (Social Security 101: What’s in it for me?)
- March 16, 2011: Sunshine Week observance
We head into the second year of our OG plan with some clear lessons from the first:
- Change is hard, but positive change is always worth the effort.
- Be willing to try something new and don’t be paralyzed by the risk of failure; it’s critical to growth. Our mantra for OG projects: try, stumble, fail, learn, grow, succeed!
- Social media has become the centerpiece for OG communications, and has tremendous viral reach; we need to expand its use in engaging the public about our programs and services.
- In a tight and uncertain budget environment, resources for new OG projects can be hard to pin down. We need to develop strong business cases to support funding these projects, and we need to seek free or low-cost solutions when possible. (Free analytic tools and open source, web-based collaboration tools and software are some examples.)
- When running a public challenge or contest, focus on leveraging innovation to solve key business problems, and provide solid incentives and rewards.
- Measuring success of open government in terms of outcomes is difficult, especially in the early going; be sure to connect OG initiatives to the agency’s mission and goals.
- New (social) media tools abound, but many are not 508-compliant; work to resolve these issues as early as possible to avoid delays in important projects.
- Review disclosure and privacy processes; build on existing, successful practices; develop agency policies to augment those already in place.
- Manage public engagement for the highest payoff. Not everything returns the same benefits but can cost about the same effort.