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Our mission

Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Thanks for all the docs

Thanks for having me as FGI September Blogger of the Month! I am signing off now and returning to my regular gig at the SLA Govt Info Blog but will remain a faithful reader. I will also keep spreading the news about the great work that FDLP librarians do. A fine example just came up on GOVDOC-L: the newly updated Federal Websites for Tribal Libraries and Tribal College Libraries, created by the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. Wonderful!

Happy October,

Recovery.gov 2.0

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.

LA Times Profiles Information Guerrillas

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).

Congress Camp 2009: Recap

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:

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”.

Gov 2.0 Summit: Report from the Outside

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.