Panel maps info reform

An independent commission has delivered its proposal to overhaul the way the government manages and disseminates public information. The National Commission on Libraries and Information Science submitted its final report, "A Comprehensive Assessment of Public Information Dissemination," to Congress and the White House on Jan. 26.

The report addresses the problems agencies have with managing electronic documents and the challenges they face working under a fragmented information-dissemination structure.

NCLIS officials say the Internet has made public data more widely available, but the data is not always easy to locate; it is stored in different formats and often disappears from Web sites after a few days. And although there always will be a need for central information service agencies such as the Government Printing Office, such repositories must adapt to the Electronic Age.

In its report, NCLIS made 36 recommendations, including creating an independent organization called the Public Information Resources Administration, which would be the lead agency for information policy and dissemination. PIRA would consolidate various services, including FirstGov, the government Web portal. Other recommendations include:

Set a national goal for establishing public information as a strategic resource. Add a new line item to agency budgets for information dissemination. Include a broad, explicit public information-dissemination authority in all agencies' missions. Woody Horton, a consultant at NCLIS, said the report is "recommending a solution to the problem that has all the pieces identified. I have yet to hear anyone come up with a better solution" than NCLIS has.

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