Within his first day in office, President Obama signed off the Memorandum of Transparency and Open Government and the Freedom of Information Act. Both clearly aim to engage the public in policy making and to provide their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information. One such example recently emerged at the How-To Wiki of Wired, which has an interesting post [howto.wired.com] about how to help build "data.gov", a possible future website that aims to make US government data more accessible and easier to use. In particular, the post aims to help focus attention on valuable data resources that need to be made more accessible or usable, and to create an online collaborative place to report where government data is locked up by design, neglect or misapplication of technology.
The post points to 8 principles of Open Government [resource.org] (i.e. complete, primary, timely, accessible, machine processable, non-discriminatory, non-propriertary, license-free), and the three types of data that the government tends to make:
. information about internal government functioning,
. statistics like those provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and
. scientific data generated by the nation's scientific agencies.
People interested in the topic, should also visit:
. the Sunlight Foundation, a non-partisan organization which uses the revolutionary power of the Internet to make information about Congress and the federal government more meaningfully accessible to citizens,
. Yes We Scan!, the website of Carl Malamud, a well-known public domain advocate, who has been working since the 80's working to make government databases freely available online and recently making primary legal documents, state laws and codes available, and
. public.resource.org, which also makes government information more accessible.
These websites, by themselves, point in turn to many other sources.
The image above is taken from webchick.org, and depicts the campaign poster of Carl Malamud. The poster promotes Carl Malamud for the office of Public Printer of the United States. Yes, this title does really exist, and refers to the official head of the Government Printing Office (GPO)).
Malamud has recently filed his radical transparency proposals with the Obama transition team, and now is looking for people to support his nomination by blogging about his campaign, or adding their support in comments on blog posts (lets hope this blog post helps a bit, maybe you can do the same at your blog?).
Here is a part of his statement asking to be head of the Government Printing Office: "For over 20 years, I have been publishing government information on the Internet. In 2008, Public.Resource.Org published over 32.4 million pages of primary legal materials, as well as thousands of hours of video and thousands of photographs. In the 1990s, I fought to place the databases of the United States on the Internet. In the 1980s, I fought to make the standards that govern our global Internet open standards available to all. Should I be honored to be nominated and confirmed, I would continue to work to preserve and extend our public domain, and would place special attention to our relationship with our customers, especially the United States Congress."