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Use and re-use of digital government information

Use and re-use of digital government information

If citizens had full, unencumbered, access to digital versions of government information, it could actually change the way government works. Three recent items highlight this.

  • An article (Open and Accountable, December 9, 2004) by Ed Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington, notes that Thomas does not yet include the full text of every bill, notably spending measures. He suggests that lawmakers “ought to require that every spending measure and conference report be posted on the Internet for at least one day before members can vote on it.” What would that do? Feulner continues:

    Let’s recall that, just last month, Congress had to rework a $388 billion appropriations measure because somebody slipped in a provision that would have allowed Appropriations Committee staffers to look at confidential IRS records.

    By the time that “mistake” was discovered, House members had already passed the spending bill. They had to return to Washington, rework the legislation and vote again to fix the mistake. This could have been avoided if the bill had been posted to the Web beforehand.

    Instead, we would have had numerous taxpayers combing through the bill. Bloggers would have found the provision, talk-radio hosts would have amplified their comments, and voters would have complained to their representatives.

    This same process would allow us to identify and eliminate wasteful spending measures before they become law.

  • The release by the the National Archive of 5,393 pages of Presidential records from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library concerning Judge John G. Roberts provides another example. The documents are all available online: http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/roberts/. Hugh Hewitt, a Professor of Law at Chapman University Law School, started organizing the Adopt a Box of Docs project and there is a masterlist of who is examining which boxes and links to their analyses at radioblogger.

  • National Journal’s Beltway Blogroll has a short article about the concept of citizen use of government information: An Appeal For Federal ‘Blog Slogs’, by dglover at August 22, 2005

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