The White House has finally released its Open Government Directive, laying out agency TPC (Transparency, Participation, Collaboration) guidelines. The language: This memorandum is intended to direct executive departments and agencies to take specific actions to implement the principles of transparency, participation and collaboration . . . [these] three principles . . . form the cornerstone of an open government. Transparency promotes accountability by providing the public with information about what the Government is doing. Participation allows members of the public to contribute ideas and expertise so that their government can make policies with the benefit of information that is widely dispersed in society. Collaboration improves the effectiveness of Government by encouraging partnership and cooperation within the Federal Government, across levels of government, and between the Government and private institutions.

Fundamentally, the document lays out the guidelines we’ve been waiting for all year. The words “transparency,” participation,” and “collaboration” have become increasingly obscure since they were first launched into the mainstream government space in the wake of the Obama campaign’s success.

One of the increasing concerns is that, for example, the ‘participation’ engendered by U.S. government e-initiatives is fundamentally about mobilizing citizens to act on government’s desires – whether crowdsourcing a grassroots army or creating ‘Apps for … ‘ contests that enable government to save millions of dollars on new technologies by going around traditional vendors. As opposed to citizens being able to enact any real change.

At the federal level, e-government is still (early) in its infancy, so it’s impossible to know where it’s ultimately headed, whether it will be liberatory or just more of the same. But it has lost a lot of the momentum it appeared to have at about this time last year.

As techpresident’s Nancy Scola points out, the real challenge is changing the culture within “a United States federal government that has a momentum towards secrecy.”

By Mark Alvarez