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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.

OMB Watch Report on Transparency and Accountability Websites

On March 19, OMB Watch released a new report that evaluates state and federal websites designed to ensure the accountability of public officials. The report, Upholding the Public’s Trust: Key Features for Effective State Accountability Websites, examines state efforts to release public officials’ integrity information online. Such transparency is crucial to guard against self-dealing and patronage. While states and the federal government have made progress in this area, more work lies ahead.

This report considers four key areas of transparency in the U.S. state and federal governments: campaign finance, lobbying, procurement, and public officials’ assets. The report describes the key features needed for effective online disclosure in these areas and highlights leading practices in the states.

Poligraft: one click to transparency in the news

Our friends at Sunlight Labs have done it again! They just released a tool called PoliGraft. Paste the url of a news story or blog post into the tool (or better yet, install their handy bookmarklet in your browser’s tool bar!) and the tool analyzes the story, mines it for names, corporations etc and quickly spits out the interconnections between the people, organizations and relationships contributions associated with the story. The data mined by the tool is provided by the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute for Money in State Politics.

For example, here’s a NY Times article about Elena Kagan’s confirmation to the US Supreme Court and here’s the PoliGraft results including the original text and the report on aggregated contributions and points of influence of the many politicians named in the NYT story. A very cool tool indeed!

[Thanks @stereogab!]

Recovery.gov Relaunched

Recovery.gov is back up. This time, it has many more features. It is a website that, according to the website:

Lets you, the taxpayer, figure out where the money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is going. There are going to be a few different ways to search for information. The money is being distributed by Federal agencies, and soon you’ll be able to see where it’s going — to which states, to which congressional districts, even to which Federal contractors. As soon as we are able to, we’ll display that information visually in maps, charts, and graphics.

You can read a full copy of the bill, share your recovery story, and learn more about the President’s accountability & transparency objectives. And check out the “Where is Your Money Going“? page for a simple visual representation.

CA Sec of State wants open source e-voting systems

Last week, at the Technology Review‘s Emerging Technologies Conference held at MIT, there was a panel on electronic voting systems in which CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen participated — along with Moderator Jason Pontin, Editor in Chief, Technology Review; Doug Chapin, Director, electionline.org; Ronald L. Rivest, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT; and Pamela Smith, President, Verified Voting Foundation. You may remember that in 2007, Bowen ordered a complete top-to-bottom review of voting systems in CA. I’m really glad to see a top-level politician sitting on a panel of cutting edge technologists and really, really glad to hear that top-level politician advocate for [w:Open-source software].

Now, I’m not saying the open source is the end all and be all solution to the myriad issues facing e-voting (see Bev harris’ Black Box Voting for more on those issues); but it’s great to see that Bowen at least gets that open source software is at least part of the solution. We’ve been saying that for quite some time. For a complete wrapup of the panel see Lucas Mearian’s ComputerWorld blog

One method of addressing software issues associated with the vast majority of proprietary e-voting applications out there is to move to using open source, especially for applications residing on optical scanners, which have been particularly troublesom. The concern is that IT administrators can’t look at the software to correct errors or tweak it for a particular county’s needs. Open source would go a long ways to disclosing problems associated with today’s propretary e-voting applications, Bowen said.

[Thanks /.]

Sunshine Week March 16-22

Sunshine Week has been mentioned in previous posts but it certainly deserves its own blog post too. This national initiative is set to take place March 16th through the 22nd. Its purpose is to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Anyone can take part, as long as you do something to engage discussion about open government. For example, you could write a letter to your local newspaper, host a panel discussion at your library, hold a debate on the FOIA in your political science class, etc.

Visit the Sunshine Week website for more information on events and resources and ideas to help spread the word. Updates will be posted on the Sunshine Week blog.

So…what will you be planning to do that week or maybe for next years Sunshine Week? Care to share your ideas? (Because I’m looking for some!) I think this year I will create a daily post on my depository’s blog about open government and freedom of information resources, but next year I’d like to do something more interactive and on a larger scale with the community.