September 29, 2014

SIPA students interested in government transparency and collaboration efforts gathered Sept. 24 to discuss U.S. Open Government initiatives with White House Senior Advisor Corinna Zarek. The event, organized by the New Media Task Force, was an intimate gathering offering students an opportunity to learn about the latest developments in the field.

Visiting ahead of an Open Government Partnership event at the UN, Zarek spoke to students about crowdsourcing and citizen science initiatives like the National Archives’ Citizen Archivist program, which calls on an army of online volunteers to help transcribe and tag historical documents. She also spoke about U.S. agency efforts to boost innovation through prizes and challenges.

With a background in law and journalism, Zarek got her start in open government by working on transparency issues relating to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. FOIA requests grant citizens the right to access records from the federal government. In her current role as Open Government advisor, she continues to work with the 100 federal agencies on improving the efficiency and response times for these requests, and also coordinates collaboration with agencies and civil society on broader open government efforts.

Another initiative highlighted in the talk was the effort to recruit and in-house technology talent at government agencies. Initiatives like the Presidential Innovation Fellows Program aim to attract developers, designers, and technologists into government. The program pairs fellows with  federal agencies to work on national priorities with the potential to save lives, save taxpayer money, fuel job creation, and improve government.

In the spirit of openness, Zarek invited students to follow the White House’s latest developments in Open Government on Twitter with @OpenGov and at

-- Eva Pereira MPA '15