US Government Opens-Up to OpenID and Information Cards

Today at the Gov 2.0 Summit in Washington, DC: the Federal Government is announcing they will be implementing OpenID and Info Cards as part of its open government initiative. The looming adoption of these two standards paves the way for citizens to use existing accounts and online identities (such as their Yahoo or Google accounts) to participate in various government web sites. This also means that citizens can customize their experience on government websites without needing to reveal any personally identifiable information – including passwords.

The collaborative effort, which will initially include participation from a variety of digital identity providers, will be phased in as part of a pilot program implemented by the following three agencies:

  • Center for Information Technology (CIT)
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

And the identity providers participating in the pilot include several major players in the tech industry:

  • Yahoo!
  • PayPal
  • Google
  • Equifax
  • AOL
  • VeriSign
  • Acxiom
  • Citi
  • Privo
  • Wave Systems

In order to ensure a fair opportunity for digital identity providers, companies participating in the pilot are being certified under a collaborative Framework set up between the Federal Government and both the OpenID Foundation and the Information Card Foundation. An Open Trust Frameworks for Open Government white paper provides more insight and detail about this effort.

There have been a slew of positive reactions to this new facet of the open government initiative. You can check out the various reactions by government directors, identity providers, and digital identity advocates at the Information Cards blog.

Chris Messina, an active and vocal advocate of open technologies perhaps sums it best:

This effort sets in motion a shift in how individuals can interact with the public sector and makes progress on the Obama administration's promise for a more open, transparent, and participatory government.

And indeed this new effort is indicative of the fact that changes are underway in the government's adoption of Web 2.0 technologies, as well as its migration towards providing online services that are more than just digital brochures. The implications for developers are profound as well, as the use of open standards signals another step towards enabling a truly programmable government web. It provides hope and potential for citizens to not only participate as stakeholders, but also to contribute to and assist with government efforts that benefit the public at large.

The Information Cards blog has posted the formal press release for the initiative. As we have covered in previous posts, including our recent post on the latest upgrade to The New York Times Congress API, this is an important and popular topic that is increasingly gathering attention. Marshall Kirkpatrick has posted some additional analysis on the news over at ReadWriteWeb.

Be sure to read the next Government article: An API That Can Tell If You're Dead or Alive