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Openness, Transparency And Accountability – In The Cloud And In Government

We’ve built Rackspace on several key principles, but ultimately, they boil down to openness, transparency and accountability.

Over the past several months we’ve sharpened our open cloud story, a game-changing technology shift that alters the way IT operates and computing is consumed. What’s more? It’s built on open source technology called OpenStack, so our customers and contributors can see and influence the code. If they don’t like it, they can re-write or suggest improvements – it doesn’t get more transparent than that. And if something goes wrong, we’ll step up and take the blame and work to make things better.

Those key principles are also behind the OpenGov Foundation, an organization whose board I recently joined. I know you might be asking: a government-focused foundation? Really?

Yes, really.

The OpenGov Foundation is to government entities what Rackspace is to cloud computing. The organization bills itself as “a scrappy little outfit working to open government.” Sound familiar? Replace “government” with “the cloud” and the parallels between the OpenGov mission and ours here at Rackspace are downright eerie. It’s like we’re brothers from another mother.

And the OpenGov Foundation’s work on the Madison Project fits squarely into our core mission. Madison is a free open source software that provides an Internet-protecting alternative to SOPA and PIPA, two ill-fated Internet piracy bills I spoke out against last year.

Madison started by introducing the element of crowdsourcing to legislation and bill creation by adding user-generated improvements to the legislative process. Madison has evolved a bit beyond that, creating an environment where even more government documents are open to everyone to spark discussion, collaboration and improvement while prompting elected officials to listen to and learn from the public. Through the Madison Project, government can become open and give the people the power to shape laws and policy.

Open source software is a big step, but that alone can’t open up the government. The OpenGov Foundation is also charged with building communities of smart developers, users and instances; citizens who care what happens in Washington; and forward-thinking elected officials.

OpenGov goes further than a specific piece of legislation and a desire to open government data. The Foundation is bent on building tools and working together to solve problems as a community.

Bottom line: much like there was in the cloud, there is a major change needed when it comes to the government. It needs to be easier for people like you and me to access and use government information. We believe this is best accomplished through innovative tools and technologies, open access and community involvement. It goes back to that notion of transparency and accountability. The Madison Project is an incredible starting point.

Together, we all need to push for a government that listens, that works for its citizens and also learns from them. To do that, OpenGov is charged with putting better data and better tools into more hands and we must make those tools simple to use, efficient, scalable and free. Again, there are a lot of similarities here with what we’re doing with OpenStack and our open cloud.

Think of it this way, the government should provide us, its citizens, the Fanatical Support that we at Rackspace provide our customers. Just like the cloud democratizes IT, OpenGov works to democratize government – a key goal is to give every citizen a chance to be a hands-on contributor. Transparency creates broader participation in our democratic system. If citizens see what the government is doing, those citizens can be more active in their government.

During these challenging times, we need to push our political leaders to be effective. OpenGov can go a long way to improve the democratic process and increase or government’s effectiveness.

While we at Rackspace push to build an open, accessible and accountable cloud, the OpenGov Foundation wields its sledgehammers to break down the barriers of closed, inaccessible and unaccountable government.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Lanham Napier.

Lanham Napier was the CEO of Rackspace from 2006 to February 2014, and now serves as a consultant to the company's leaders. As CEO, he avidly promoted the workplace culture that drives the company’s famed Fanatical Support®. This passion for empowering customers has made Rackspace the acknowledged leader of the open cloud.

Napier joined Rackspace in April 2000, a couple of years after its founding. He recognized early on that the company’s employees—dubbed Rackers—and its unique culture of customer service, would be the keys to its success. Napier strove to give Rackers the same exceptional support that they provide to the company’s customers. That approach has won Rackspace recognition by FORTUNE® magazine as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, and by Bloomberg Businessweek as a Top 100 Performing Technology Company.

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