Panelists: Push for transparency must come from the top

Top- and mid-level federal managers must lead the cultural change critical to the success of the Obama administration's efforts to make government more transparent, officials said during a panel discussion in Washington on Monday.

"This city is entrenched in a lot of stuff," said Lindy Kyzer, former social media manager of the Army Public Affairs Office and now an independent consultant, before an audience at Government Executive's Excellence in Government Conference. Kyzer and other panelists agreed that to reverse entrenched attitudes, those at the top must encourage openness within their agencies.

Kyzer said for as long as she could remember, there has been a culture of fear and secrecy surrounding the Army that could undermine transparency efforts. One of the ways the Public Affairs Office is combating this is through social media; the Army has its own Facebook page and many of its leaders have their own personal pages and Twitter accounts. "I now get to know when a four-star general goes to Riverdance with his wife," Kyzer said.

But how do you keep sensitive information safe when, for example, soldiers can Tweet from a war zone? According to Kyzer, ownership and education are essential. Soldiers must understand they are speaking for the Army when they post information on social media sites, she said. Through education, service members will learn how to use social networking in a way that is appropriate and meaningful, she added.

Richard Boly, director of eDiplomacy at the State Department, said to foster cultural collaboration "outside the firewall," agencies must begin from within. In 2006, State created the eDiplomacy Office to promote collaboration and communication among employees and the public. One such program is Diplopedia, a wiki much like the popular Wikipedia, through which department employees can create and edit pages on foreign affairs-related topics. Boly said through learning to collaborate with colleagues, federal employees will become more comfortable with the idea of sharing with the public, and more familiar with the avenues for releasing information. He also noted there is a significant generational gap in knowledge of social media and technology; those who are 15 or 20 years into their careers are likely to be skeptical, he said. Boly stressed that management must be educated on new technology, and suggested that young, tech-savvy employees do the teaching. For years, he said, top-level employees have mentored those below them; he urged managers to take part in "reverse mentoring."

Darren Ash, deputy executive director for corporate management at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, added it is essential to address an agency's particular constituency when fostering a cultural shift toward transparency. It is not merely enough to publish more data, he said. Information must be tailored in a way that is meaningful and accessible to the demographic an agency is trying to reach. Social media, for instance, might not be the best way to share information with older citizens.

"This is the public's business," Ash said. "This is expected of us as an agency."

President Obama announced on his first day in office that open government would be a priority, and outlined specific requirements in a December 2009 directive.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.