As President Obama’s $825+ billion financial stimulus package works its way through Congress, a number of groups have started to call for increased transparency in the way that data on the proposed spending will be shared with citizens.
Most noteworthy are demands from public-interest groups and academics that the the data be provided in a format conducive to user-generated mashups and remixes.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 passed through the House Appropriations Committee a couple weeks ago, and it is expected to come up for a full House vote in the coming weeks.
In addition to authorizing the spending of an obscene amount of money, the act also mandates the creation of a Web site to “foster greater accountability and transparency” in the use of those funds.
While the bill does a great job in mandating the kinds of information that will be put online (contracts, audits, inspector general reports, etc.), it is rather vague with regard to details on how the information will be provided.
The only hints include language mandating that the information be “easy to understand” and “regularly updated,” and include a “database of findings from audits,” “printable reports,” and “user-friendly visual presentations to enhance public awareness of the use of funds.”
Such statements bring to mind the possibility of yet another boring and difficult-to-navigate federal government Web site, perhaps similar to the Federal Communications Commission’s antiquated and ineffective home page, or the Federal Elections Commission’s slothlike campaign donation search engine.
mment left with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees had yet to be returned.
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