Transparency Camp 09: Pushing Government Forward

What’s Transparency Camp?  

This un-conference is about convening a trans-partisan tribe of open government advocates from all walks — government representatives, technologists, developers, NGOs, wonks and activists — to share knowledge on how to use new technologies to make our government transparent and meaningfully accessible to the public.

In practice, this meant a very smart and dedicated group of government and non-government techies devoted their weekend to collaborating, brainstorming and scheming new ways to make government more open and accessible to all of us. What was unique about the un-conference was that it was open and collaborative, where the people in the audience were just as smart as the “experts” presenting. It was also made up as it went along, as topics and panels were put together on the fly, in response to the interests and passions of the attendees.

I attended because I used to be a government web site manager and think that government sites can be better. And that they should be better, for they are paid for by taxpayers. In one session I was in, the question was asked, “What can the public do to make .gov sites better?”

My answer is to keep pushing. There are numerous barriers to improving government sites, from IT security to policy, that can only be overcome through public pressure. The public needs to demand sites that are easier to use and more efficiently managed. Why can’t .gov be like Google?

Perhaps more importantly, the creative, risk-taking spirit of events like Transparency Camp needs to be encouraged within government. There are a lot of very talented people within government who want to blog, use Twitter, publish data in open formats, create mashups and experiment with new technology to better serve taxpayers. These people need to be empowered so that they can more effectively communicate the work of government to the public that pays for it.

Author: Joe Flood

Joe Flood is a writer, photographer and web person from Washington, DC. The author of several novels, Joe won the City Paper Fiction Competition in 2020. In his free time, he enjoys wandering about the city taking photos.

One thought on “Transparency Camp 09: Pushing Government Forward”

  1. (Caveat: I virtually participated on Day 1; Family commitments conflicted on Day 2)

    I concur we should keep pushing…

    Perhaps part of the question should be: Who is the ‘consumer/contributor’? I would argue .gov sites need to be both inward and outward facing. Many times the actual govvies and support staff need a place of their own.. Plus, the ‘regular joe citizen’ needs/wants to be a ‘consumer / contributor’ of an outward facing site to meet Gov2.0 ‘transparency and accountability’ goals.

    The sticky point: which data belongs where? With the new ‘CUI’ effort, the answer may be a little easier.. However, each Agency is different and each has their own ‘needs’ to share info. In the end, it’s about striking the right balance between sharing and protecting Government specific information (for the right reasons!)

    Data categorization would go a long way in accomplishing the above balance.. Data standards, protocols, etc. are all technology centric solutions which most of us have either deployed and/or know who has.. The ‘Policy’ piece and ‘Culture’ changes are not totally technology dependent. Although, techonology certainly can enable both! But, like you conclude, it takes leadership and courage to take the first step…

    I look forward to future Transparency and Gov2.0 camps, it’s the right thing to do! =)

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