From small local agencies to sprawling federal departments, governments across the country are using the web to make more information available to citizens. Activists and software companies envision a new era of government accountability. But they’re grappling with a range of technical and philosophical obstacles. Tech Tuesday explores the roles and responsibilities of governments, software developers and activists.

Guests

  • Dave Watts Chief Technology Officer, Fig Leaf Software
  • Rob Pinkerton Director of Government Solutions, Adobe Systems
  • Clay Johnson Director of Sunlight Labs, Sunlight Foundation

Information on “Open Government”

President Barack Obama has pledged to make government more transparent through the White House’s “Open Government Initiative”. On January 21, 2009, President Obama released his Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government.

Adobe has recently launched an ad campaign promoting Open Government solutions.They have also produced a White Paper on Open Government (in pdf, of course), entitled“An opportunity for
the US Government.”

Clay Johnson has criticized government use of PDF’s and Adobe Flash, arguing that “Adobe is Bad for Open Government.”

Reading H.R. 3962- Affordable Health Care for America Act

On October 29th, 2009, the House of Representatives passed H.R.3962 – Affordable Health Care for America Act, by a vote of 220- 215.

H.R. 3962 is available in full text –all 1,990 pages of it– in a number of official outlets. You can find it through the Library of Congress’ “Thomas” system. You can also access a PDF from the Government Printing Office.

Third-party sites have made the text available in different formats. Open Congress has posted full text of H.R. 3962 on their site, in a searchable format. Govtrack.us has also posted H.R. 3962.

Maplight.org has taken the voting records of House members and cross-referenced them with campaign contribution information.

Government Sites

  • Data.gov “increases the ability of the public to easily find, download, and use datasets that are generated and held by the Federal Government. Data.gov provides descriptions of the Federal datasets (metadata), information about how to access the datasets, and tools that leverage government datasets.”

  • Grants.gov “A central storehouse for information on over 1,000 grant programs and provides access to approximately $500 billion in annual awards.”

  • Federal IT Dashboard“provides the public with an online window into the details of Federal information technology investments and provides users with the ability to track the progress of investments over time.”

Definitions and Jargon from the Show

  • XML (Extensive Markup Language) “a simple… flexible text format…. Originally designed to meet the challenges of large-scale electronic publishing, XML is also playing an increasingly important role in the exchange of a wide variety of data on the Web and elsewhere.” from w3.org Also see Wikipedia’s definition.

  • API (Application Programming Interface) “Publishing APIs has allowed web communities to create an open architecture for sharing of content and data between communities and applications. In this way, content that is created in one place can be dynamically posted and/or updated in multiple locations on the web.” from Wikipedia.

  • PDF (Portable Document Format) “a file format created by Adobe Systems in 1993 for document exchange. PDF is used for representing two-dimensional documents in a manner independent of the application software, hardware, and operating system…. Formerly a proprietary format, PDF was officially released as an open standard on July 1, 2008, and published by the International Organization for Standardization.” from Wikipedia. Also, information on the history of the PDF can be found on the Adobe website, here.

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