Month of September, 2009
The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board released an upgraded version of the Recovery.gov website on Monday, September 28. Recovery.gov is, per the website, "the U.S. government’s official website providing easy access to data related to Recovery Act spending and allows for the reporting of potential fraud, waste, and abuse." The site now has a zip code search for finding local Recovery Act awards, a Data Download section, and a new home page layout with more information upfront.
The reviews of the recent upgrade are out and can be summed up as "meh." The conclusion from interested bloggers seems to be that while a few improvements have been made around the edges, there is little new to shout about. Observers are waiting for the real show, the scheduled October 15 release of the first recipient contract data and October 30 release of the first recipient grant and loan data. From the blogs:
Meet the New Recovery.gov, "(mostly) the same as the old Recovery.gov", from OMB Watch Blog, September 28.
New Recovery.gov Goes Live, Key Data to be Released Later, from WSJ.com Washington Wire, September 28.
Grading the New Recovery.gov, a substantial review from Sunlight Labs, September 29.
Meanwhile, CRS librarians have updated their compilation of links to Recovery-related information on the web in this report available from OpenCRS.com: Authoritative Resources on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), updated September 10.
Los Angeles Time business columnist Michael Hiltzik discusses key players in the Free Government Information movement in the article These crusaders bring transparency to government (28 September 2009).
Have you wondered how many items get submitted to the Government Printing Office as fugitive documents through GPO's Lost Docs form at http://www.fdlp.gov/lostdocs? We have.
Have you thought that a public "lost docs" list might be a good collection development tool? We have.
Have you wondered how long it takes GPO to act on fugitive documents reports? We have.
To answer these questions, Free Government Information (FGI) has established a new stand-alone blog called the Lost Docs Blog at http://lostdocs.freegovinfo.info/. You can also get to the blog by clicking on "Lostdocs" in the upper right-hand corner of the FGI home page.
We think that the Lost Docs blog, if well utilized, will provide several important services to the Government Information Community:
- It will provide an indication of the volume of fugitive documents discovered by the community.
- It will reduce duplicate reports of fugitive documents, optimizing the time of GPO catalogers.
- It will allow depository libraries and other interested parties the opportunity to acquire materials found to be out of scope of the FDLP.
- Since blogs are indexed by Google and other search engines, lostdocs blog posts will raise awareness of government documents in search results.
Participating in this blog is easy. All we need you to do is to send us your e-mail receipt from GPO to firstname.lastname@example.org. That's it. If you're new to reporting fugitive documents, you might want to check out our instructions at http://lostdocs.freegovinfo.info/2009/07/how-to-report-a-fugitivelost-document/.
We know there have been many respectable efforts at tackling the issue of fugitive documents. What we think makes this project different is the public listing of possible fugitive documents acknowledged by GPO's reporting system. If enough lost docs reporters forward their receipts to email@example.com, then we'll have a good handle on what the documents community is finding and reporting.
Because some will ask us why we didn't ask GPO for copies of their receipts, we wanted to let you know we did. GPO is involved in a number of worthy projects at the moment and was not able to commit to providing us copies of their lostdocs e-mail receipts. We appreciated the time they gave to review our proposal.
Now it's up to you. If you have some lostdocs receipts on hand, send them to us. And start forwarding receipts for items you report to GPO in the future. Together we can create a new collection development resource that will benefit librarians and documents users alike.
Project Censored, a media research project from Sonoma State University in California every year puts out a list of "news that didn't make the news." They've just released their 2010 edition (see below). I hope lots of people will go out and get a copy for themselves and their local libraries because this is what journalism is all about. It is the flip side of govt transparency as more available govt information makes for better and more thorough journalism.
- 1. US Congress Sells Out to Wall Street
- 2. US Schools are More Segregated Today than in the 1950s
- 3. Toxic Waste Behind Somali Pirates
- 4. Nuclear Waste Pools in North Carolina
- 5. Europe Blocks US Toxic Products
- 6. Lobbyists Buy Congress
- 7. Obama’s Military Appointments Have Corrupt Past
- 8. Bailed out Banks and America’s Wealthiest Cheat IRS Out of Billions
- 9. US Arms Used for War Crimes in Gaza
- 10. Ecuador Declares Foreign Debt Illegitimate
- 11. Private Corporations Profit from the Occupation of Palestine
- 12. Mysterious Death of Mike Connell—Karl Rove’s Election Thief
- 13. Katrina’s Hidden Race War
- 14. Congress Invested in Defense Contracts
- 15. World Bank’s Carbon Trade Fiasco
- 16. US Repression of Haiti Continues
- 17. The ICC Facilitates US Covert War in Sudan
- 18. Ecuador’s Constitutional Rights of Nature
- 19. Bank Bailout Recipients Spent to Defeat Labor
- 20. Secret Control of the Presidential Debates
- 21. Recession Causes States to Cut Welfare
- 22. Obama’s Trilateral Commission Team
- 23. Activists Slam World Water Forum as a Corporate-Driven Fraud
- 24. Dollar Glut Finances US Military Expansion
- 25. Fast Track Oil Exploitation in Western Amazon
[Thanks for the tip Crooks and Liars!]
As promised, here is my report on the first-ever U.S. Congress Camp. The event was an unconference held in Washington, DC on September 12-13, 2009. Participants were from the civic hacking community, advocacy software companies, advocacy groups, gov 2.0 crowd, academia (public policy), and social media start-ups, with a sprinkling from congressional offices, and one or more from big tech and and other walks of life.
The announced focus of Congress Camp was citizen-Congress communications, although topics related to congressional content in general came up. (See more on the communications topic from the recent CRS report on use of Twitter by Congress.)
You can read and hear about Congress Camp on the web. See:
- CongressCamp site and blog
- Congress Camp Provides Dynamic Dialogue... posting on NextGenWeb, September 17
- Congress Camp: Where the Hill Meets Web 2.0 September 16 posting on INfluence, the blog of Forum One Communications
- Government 2.0 Radio September 20 episode, featuring interviews with Congress Camp participants (one hour; starts with general Gov 2.0 news)
Congressional staffers participating in Congress Camp were interested in moving forward but provided much-needed reality checks for the tech crowd: congressional offices have outdated hardware and software; they are already swamped with email that is not from their district or can't be authenticated; they get email that their constituents didn't even know they sent (automatically generated when they clicked on something unrelated but tempting); in some districts most or many constituents do not even have ready access to the Internet; etc. In spite of these obstacles, some congressional offices are already applying a 2.0 approach. For examples, see the case studies section of this Embracing Gov 2.0 post on the Cangress Camp blog.
Some camp participants seemed to be much more familiar with tech than Congress, or with the political side rather than the governing side. No doubt they learned much in two days of dialogue. Gov 2.0er Noel Dickover summed it up in a tweet: "My overall thought on #CongCamp is that we are still at the awareness and sensemaking stage at #opengov".
Social Networking and Constituent Communication: Member Use of Twitter During a Two-Week Period in the 111th Congress, by Matthew Eric Glassman, Jacob R. Straus, and Colleen J. Shogan, Congressional Research Service 7-5700, R40823 (September 21, 2009). [posted on politico.com]
There has been a recent uptick in the movement toward and the hype about cloud computing. The federal government's embrace of cloud computing with its apps.gov store for agencies to easily obtain cloud computing resources is, perhaps, the most visible.
A couple of recent articles provide context and realism to the hyperbole.
- Legal Implications of Cloud Computing - Part One (the Basics and Framing the Issues), By David Navetta, InfoSecCompliance Blog (September 12, 2009). (Also available on LLRX).
Bottom line: this is not your father's outsourcing relationship, and trying to protect clients with contracts may be very difficult or impossible unless the cloud computing community begins to build standards and processes to create trust.
...there is going to be incredible financial pressure on organizations to take advantage of the pricing and efficiency of cloud computing and if attorneys fail to understand the issues ahead of time there is a serious risk of getting "bulldozed" into cloud computing arrangements without time or resources to address some serious legal issues that are implicated.
- Demystifying Cloud Computing for Higher Education, by Richard N. Katz, Philip J. Goldstein, and Ronald Yanosky, ECAR Research Bulletin, Volume 2009, Issue 19 (September 22, 2009) [membership required].
Public clouds are profit-driven and are most effective with those services that are highly commodified. If an IT service can be offered in a standardized fashion without special regard to end user variations, or to local, state, regional, or even national regulatory differences, then that service can be offered as an undifferentiated commodity service—presumably at a great price. In such a case, the dominant legal principle is likely to be caveat emptor—buyer beware—backed by standard contract language shielding the provider from any significant liabilities for process failures or data corruption and loss.
...The challenges and risks that will constrain higher education’s adoption of cloud computing relate to trust, confidence, and surety.
...Notwithstanding the near unanimous belief that cloud computing is an important enabler of a fundamental shift in the organization and economics in enterprise IT, the (non-hyperbolic) literature and the discussion with community leaders also make clear that at present the topic is mired in hype and near-utopian optimism.
We've been tracking net neutrality for a while but it seems to have gone below the radar. That is, until today when Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), gave a speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. and presented a series of open-access principles, emphasizing, among other things, net neutrality. And groups like Save the Internet cheered!
Genachowski added 2 principles to the FCC's original 4 principles of network freedom mapped out by Michael Powell in 2005 (see other 4 below):
(the other 4 principles are: (1) consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice; (2) consumers are entitled to run applications and services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement; (3) consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network; and (4) consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers. See TechlawJournal for background)
On a side note, the speech was posted to the FCC's beta site called OpenInternet.gov built to "facilitate input and participation in the commission proceedings as this discussion evolves."
[Thanks to Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly!]
This post follows my September 18th post, Gov 2.0 Expo Showcase: Govies Represent.
The Gov 2.0 Summit, sponsored by O'Reilly Media and TechWeb and held in Washington, DC on September 9th and 10th, was a Big Event--particularly for those who were there. Lots of blogging, lots of tech press coverage. It was full of big tech invitees and priced too high for the average local government webmaster or civic hacker. And me. So this is a view from the outside.
Fortunately, videos from many of the conference sessions are available on the Summit website. You can review the full schedule of sessions and click on "Read more" to link to videos and any other material available for a session. One of the highlights, based on the chatter, was Carl Malamud's By the People... talk. The Summit website does not have it, but the video of Malamud's talk has been posted to his own site and is linked from FGI as a lunchtime listen.
Here is a sampling of some of the videos available:
Rapid Fire: Setting the Stage, esteemed panel presents 2.0 examples
GeoEnabling Gov 2.0, Jack Dangermond, founder and president of ESRI
Creating an Effective Platform, John Markoff of NY Times interviews the father of the Internet, the co-founder of Twitter, and Facebook's DC rep
Based on the tweets, the Gov 2.0 Summit attendees seemed to be genuinely ecstatic about the show and new to many of the existing projects and the landscape of government information. Whether they see a market here is another question.
For more coverage, check out the Summit website's long list of links to news articles about the conference.
A recent non-government health care survey is a good complement to the recent Current Population Report P60 series report (see: Health Insurance Coverage: 2008):
- Employer Health Benefits: 2009 Annual Survey, Kaiser Family Foundation (Kaiser) and the Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET).
Among those that offer benefits, large percentages of firms report that in the next year they are very or somewhat likely to increase the amount workers contribute to premiums (42%), increase deductible amounts (36%), increase office visit cost sharing (39%), or increase the amount that employees have to pay for prescription drugs (37%).
See also: You Have No Idea What Health Costs By Ezra Klein, Washington Post (September 20, 2009). "The most important health-care document released this week was not Sen. Max Baucus's Healthy Future Act. It was the Kaiser Family Foundation's 2009 Employer Benefits Survey."