May 9, 2009

Erik Wilde & Eric Kansa on Recovery Spending Transparency

From Internet Evolution

Transparency 2.0

By Mary Hayes Weier

President Obama has made Internet-enabled government transparency a cornerstone of his administration, but there hasn’t been much talk about the information technology needed to pull it off.

Well, the time has come. The White House’s vision for transparency is clouded with numerous technological hurdles, and agencies right now are making decisions that will determine whether this effort makes government more open or becomes another costly federal IT blunder....

Also, some see the OMB’s ambition wavering. Earlier this year, three academics in the University of California at Berkeley School of Information wanted to help the effort, and simulated some data mashups using Atom-based data feeds. They even developed a technical implementation guide that they hope agencies will use to promote a modern, Web 2.0 federal reporting infrastructure. Now they’re concerned that the latest guidance doesn’t have enough teeth to make data truly transparent.

One of those academics, Web specialist and UC Berkeley adjunct professor Erik Wilde, calls the updated guidelines a “major step backward.” They suggest email-based reporting – once considered an intermediary step to requiring data feeds from agencies – may be accepted if an agency can’t do Web data feeds for some reason, he says.

Making data feeds a requirement, Wilde says, would ensure that the same data being consumed by the OMB could be consumed by anyone. It also bothers him that for agencies providing feeds, there isn’t one standard (they can choose RSS or Atom), and there aren’t detailed requirements for the content and structure of feeds, raising questions of data quality.

Eric Kansa, an executive director in the UC Berkeley School of Information, went as far as to call the new guidelines “black-box transparency” in a blog post. Centralized reporting, he says, means that data will be gathered behind the scenes and not made publicly visible, raising questions about how data is processed and transformed. Required data feeds could be readily aggregated to provide one-stop monitoring of how funds are being paid out.

Kansa now says “black-box transparency” may have been too strong, and that the OMB data architects are “smart and capable people dedicated to doing the right thing.” However, he does see “a less forceful push toward the really compelling vision OMB articulated back in mid-February.” ...


Last updated:

October 4, 2016