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Abstract

If President Barack Obama's new administration really wants to embrace the potential of Internet-enabled government transparency, it should follow a counter-intuitive but ultimately compelling strategy: reduce the federal role in presenting important government information to citizens. Today, government bodies consider their own Web sites to be a higher priority than technical infrastructures that open up their data for others to use. We argue that this understanding is a mistake. It would be preferable for government to understand providing reusable data, rather than providing Web sites, as the core of its online publishing responsibility. During the presidential campaign, all three major candidates indicated that they thought the federal government could make better use of the Internet. Barack Obama's platform went the furthest and explicitly endorsed "maling government data available online in universally accessible formats." Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, remarked that she wanted to see much more government information online. John McCain's platform called for a new Office of Electronic Government. But the situation to which these candidates were responding-the wide gap between the exciting uses of Internet technology by private parties, on the one hand, and the government's lagging technical infrastructure, on the other-is not new. A minefield of federal rules and a range of other factors, prevent government Web masters from keeping pace with the evergrowing potential of the Internet.

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