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Open Government Initiative: The final cut

Here is a sampling of policy recommendations created by the public during the recent Open Government Initiative dialogue

Here is a sampling of policy recommendations created by the public during the recent Open Government Initiative dialogue. The recommendations were shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license using MixedInk's collaborative writing tool, which enables users to write text and to add to, edit and rate text written by others. Links to these entries are available at www.fcw.com/pointers.

Defining Transparency
53 contributors, 184 ratings, 25 versions

An informed public is essential to democracy and can help create a more effective, accountable government. Transparency is a powerful tool to demonstrate to the public that the government is spending our money wisely, that politicians are not in the pocket of lobbyists and special interest groups, that government is operating in an accountable manner, and that decisions are made to ensure the safety and protection of all Americans.

Effective transparency means that the public has access to timely, accurate information in usable formats. It also means such information is easily findable, thereby allowing the public to use commercial or government search engines to sift through mountains of material.

Institutionalizing Transparency
39 contributors, 117 ratings, 15 versions

When governmental checks and balances fail to prevent waste, fraud and abuse, the responsibility to call attention to a problem and, preferably, bring about a resolution often falls to federal employees. They must be empowered to prevent and report waste, fraud and abuse. Unfortunately, the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is outdated and fails to protect federal employees and contractors who alert authorities to wrongdoing, adding to a culture of secrecy rather than transparency. Therefore, the president should:

  • Issue directives that provide for the protection of whistleblowers who disclosure waste, fraud, or abuse within an agency, and establish a punitive process for managers who retaliate against those whistleblowers.
  • Extend whistleblower protection to national security employees.
  • Support legislative efforts to strengthen and modernize the Whistleblower Protection Act.

Enabling Participation with New Media
34 contributors, 105 ratings, 16 versions

More than 80 percent of government information is unstructured text - mostly highly technical, jargon-laden prose buried in terabytes of text, HTML and PDF documents. It is difficult for people to find the information they need to interact effectively with government, even with conventional search engine technology such as Google and Yahoo.

Often the problem is information overload - the search engine provides too much specialized information without the context or organization needed to be useful. That creates a phenomenon known as search rage - a feeling of frustration resulting from too much time spent on hit-or-miss Web searching for government information.

We need more specialized search technology for government information that combines traditional information retrieval with text mining to create a system that extracts and organizes focused summary knowledge in response to queries, rather than overwhelming users with a list of large, jargon-laden documents to plow through. That could be accomplished relatively easily by creating a system that processes search results using techniques such as concept/theme extraction, multidocument summarization, and hierarchical clustering or organization of concepts and themes.

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