Sunshine Week (March 13-19, 2022) celebrates the Government in the Sunshine Act, which promotes greater transparency in government activities. Our mission at GSA is to deliver effective and efficient government services for the American people. To do so, we have to be transparent and accessible—by opening meetings to the public, ensuring that federal buildings and facilities are fully accessible to all people, and making information on documents or pages (web pages, PDFs, newsletters, etc.) open and accessible.
On March 16, President Madison’s birthday and Freedom of Information Day, we recognize the value of public access to government information. Madison, known as the Father of the Constitution, advocated for openness in government.
Open Government at GSA
At the 2021 Open Government Partnership Global Summit, Administrator Robin Carnahan remarked, “Public trust in government also depends on having a system that values openness, the rule of law, transparency, and accountability in everyday workings of government.”
We base our open-government efforts on three principles:
Many of our initiatives display these principles:
- Challenge.Gov—where the public can participate in innovation and problem solving.
- Citizenscience.gov—bringing together federal researchers and everyday Americans to collect data and make scientific discoveries in their backyard and beyond.
- Data.gov—federal agencies’ open data with data, tools, and resources.
- Digital.gov—communities of practice, resources, and training events to help federal teams build and deliver better digital services.
- Regulations.gov—enables public access to regulatory materials and increases rulemaking participation.
- USAGov and USAGov en Español—our official guide to government information and services in English and Spanish.
GSA focuses on making content accessible by ensuring that people can understand the information on our websites, publications, and releases.
With engaging events, relevant content, and an inclusive culture, Digital.gov is recognized as the go-to source for federal web and digital communities. Our mission is to transform how government learns, builds, delivers, and measures digital services in the 21st century.
Digital.gov provides people in the federal government with the tools, methods, practices, and policy guidance they need to deliver effective and accessible digital services by:
- Encouraging the use of plain language—communication our audience can find, understand the first time they read or hear it, and then use;
- Committing to providing high-quality customer service and experience; and
- Creating online experiences and journeys that our users can trust.
All of these actions work together to meet the Sunshine Act’s underlying goals: transparency, participation, and accessibility.
Communities of Practice
Open collaboration across government is critical to a secure, digital future. Digital.gov strives to organize its work in ways that allow others to participate. Each community of practice helps to make government information accessible and usable by producing blogs, monthly and annual events, and resources and guides that other agencies can use to improve their users’ digital experience.
Part of access is, of course, being able to find, understand, and use information from the government. Many of the communities listed on Digital.gov support all aspects of accessibility and open government—including:
- Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
- Challenge and Prize
- Customer Experience (CX)
- Federal Communicators Network (FCN)
- Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science
- Government Contact Center Council (G3C)
- IT Accessibility and Section 508
- Open Data
- Open Source
- Plain Language
- SocialGov (Social Media)
- U.S. Web Design System (USWDS)
- User Experience (UX)
- Video Production Pros
- Web Analytics and Optimization
- Web Managers
All of these efforts align with what Administrator Carnahan has said about accessibility and openness: “In all of this work we’re focused on incorporating human, user-centered, equitable design, because any government that aspires to be of the people, by the people, and for the people, has to be accessible to all the people and committed to actively getting feedback and iterating to keep getting better.”
Customer Experience Executive Order
President Biden’s recent Executive Order on transforming federal customer experience and service delivery underlines the importance of what GSA—and other federal agencies—do to bring government websites into the sunshine.
Whether it’s ramps or rules, we are dedicated to accessibility for our customer agencies and the public. As the CX Executive Order states, “Every interaction between the Federal Government and the public … should be seen as an opportunity for the Government to save an individual’s time … and to deliver the level of service that the public expects and deserves.”
The CX Executive Order underlines the fact that open government—a government that’s accountable and responsive to the citizens we serve—isn’t just about making websites easy and accessible, it’s about building trust in the government’s ability to deliver.
Our business is delivering effective and efficient government services. We’re dedicated to delivering those services at the highest level of accessibility. We’re letting the sunshine in!