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Archive for May, 2010

Prime Minister needs to lead Open Government

Today, the Ottawa Citizen published a story entitled “PM needs to lead ‘open government’“. Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault told a parliamentary committee Thursday that, with a few exceptions, the government has been slow to put its electronic data online, even though Canada is one of the most Internet-connected countries in the world. She went even further and suggested that Canada follow the US lead, when Barack Obama issued an executive order on his first day in office that outlined the US Government’s commitment to providing an unprecedented level of openness and to establishing a system of transparency, public participation and collaboration.

While the executive order did not garner much media attention, I do believe that in the future, Obama’s executive order will be regarded as the catalyst to creating Government 2.0. In the USA alone, we have already witnessed an explosion of initiatives by regular citizens to use government data to improve services. The Sunlight Foundation is the best example. They have digitized information and packaged it on various websites (opencongress.org, fedspending.org, opensecrets.org, earmarkwatch.org, etc) to allow citizens to collaborate in fostering greater transparency.

If Prime Minister Harper were to follow through on the Commissioner’s recommendation, it is suggested that leadership on open government be based on the following principles:
1) Services are more valuable when they offer citizens choice – therefore, data should be available through filters and lenses as well as in “raw” format.
2) Data should be easy to find – many governments today post data online, but it is buried in large webpages with inefficient search options. Use Portals!
3) Collaborate – both with other government departments and with the private / non profit sector. Often, different organizations collect similar data on a similar issue. A holistic perspective should be considered when compiling and communicating data.

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