Marti Hearst, UC Berkley School of Information professor spoke about the U.S. Federal Government’s efforts to make information more accessible. Government 2.0 or open government is an effort to redo how the U.S. federal government works using IT. This includes new technologies to improve communications, increase transparency, and cut costs. The executive branch is the largest branch in terms of both number of employees and IT spending and is spearheading open government initiatives.
The White House visitor log website, the data.gov website, and government IT spending website are recent tools that the government has created to increase transparency. Open Government initiatives also include online participation tools such as open the government dialog, patent-to-patent, and federal advisory committee websites which provide social forums which allow citizens to discuss issues and post suggestions. Research related to online discussion include attempt to answer questions such as how to compile and summarize responses/posts, how to engage appropriate stakeholders, and what is the value of providing forums for discussion.
Another set of research questions about the government’s online participation tools include: website design and accessibility, how to search large data collections, how to link content across databases, how to discover who is using data sets, should the U.S. government consolidate its websites, and how can website design be automated to reduce cost.
Government agencies are looking for academics to get involved by conducting and funneling research to the appropriate agencies. Independent non-profits, bloggers, and university groups can make a huge impact. Marti provided several examples where the federal government followed up and took action on suggestions offered by individuals outside of the government. Participation can also take place by helping to analyze data sets are published to the Open Government website. Alternatively, one can write and submit code that makes it easy for government agencies to design visually appealing 508 compliant websites. Websites such as Expertlabs.gov and apps.gov allow open source collaboration on code that can be utilized by the government.