Kirsten Gillibrand's push for open government

Kirsten Gillibrand has been pushing the cause of open public data this week. The clip above is her presentation at the nerd-wonk Personal Democracy Forum on Monday -- she talked about her office's disclosure of schedules and earmarks and how's she's pushed for similar disclosure for all Congressional members.

KG also announced this week that she's co-sponsoring the "Public Online Information Act," a bill that would require public info to be made available online in a searchable format before it could be considered public.

It's good to see this kind of support for open data initiatives -- in the Information Age (or whatever you call right now), useful access to data generated by the government should be a civil right. But if KG and other open government people want to really shake things up, they'll push for the federal government (which has money) to help develop tools for local governments (which don't have money) to collect, manage and share public data. The state of access to local public data is currently underwhelming -- even for data that should be relatively easy to post. (When was the last time you searched crime reports online for your town -- oh, right, you probably can't.)

A few cities are already headed in this direction. New York City has made a big deal of it recently, releasing a "road map" toward becoming a "digital city." It's touting the push as a way of increasing civic engagement and economic development. (It already makes some data available via a "data mine.")

That kind of initiative is easier for a place like NYC -- it has a huge budget. The jump is much bigger for local municipalities that can't be even manage to consistently post their press releases online (nevermind in a format that's not pdf).

Comments

I don't think it is necessarily a lack of funding that is causing the failure of local governments to provide access to information. I think it is more likely a lack tech skills at the local level. With all due respect to folks who work in local government, they aren't necessarily competing against Google to recruit people.

The best thing that the federal government could do is to help to set uniform standards and platforms for information sharing.

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