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Blogging from the Government 2.0 hearing

I'm coming to you this morning from a hearing by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs titled E-Government 2.0: Improving Innovation, Collaboration, and Access.

They have a great panel including OMB's e-gov czarina Karen Evans, Google's manager of public sector content partnerships John Lewis Needham, Ari Schwartz from the Center from Democracy and Technology, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

The Washington Post was lucky enough to get testimony leaked to them, so they have a story in today's paper based on that testimony.

These days you can Google just about anything, from your favorite celebrity's pet to your boss's middle name. But using the biggest search engine to get information about the government often falls short.

That's what leaders from Google and Wikipedia plan to tell the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs today, urging Congress to require federal agencies to make their Web sites, records and databases more searchable.

FCW's news editor Jason Miller is reporting, so he'll have a story from here on FCW.com later today, but the testimony, which can be found here, is well worth a read.

A few highlights so far: The Center for Democracy in Technology has a report, being released today, on the searchability of government information. The findings -- it's not good.

Vital government information appears “invisible” to millions of Americans who are combing the Internet and looking for answers via the most popular search engines, according to a report released today by the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and OMB Watch.

The report, “Hiding in Plain Sight: Why Important Government Information Cannot Be Found through Commercial Search Engines,” highlights the shortcomings some federal agencies exhibit when trying to comply with the mandates of the E-Government Act of 2002, a landmark law that promotes access to government information and services.

“Unquestionably, the E-Government Act has changed the way that the public interacts with the government,” said Ari Schwartz, CDT’s Deputy Director. “Unfortunately, despite the availability of an easy technological fix, many key governmental information sources remain ‘hidden in plain sight,’ from the very search engines that the public is most likely to use.”

Other findings:

The report uses several search examples that Americans might expect to result in access to trustworthy government information. Instead, the results overlook a vast amount of useful government information. Among those results:

  • A search for “New York radiation” does not find basic FEMA and DHS information about current conditions and monitoring.

  • A search to help grandparents with a question about their rights to visit their grandchildren does not turn up an article specifically answering that question that is located on the Web site of the Administration for Children & Families.

  • A search for “small farm loans” turns up commercial offers for loans and statistics about government loans, but not most of the major federal government programs designed to help fund small farms.

As I say, we'll have more on this hearing ahead... I'll have more and Jason Miller will report from here. Stay tuned.

Posted on Dec 11, 2007 at 12:17 PM


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