Open government’s double standard
Despite open government calls for performance metrics and financial transparency in government, you’d be hard-pressed to find any of this for the movement behind it.
Over the past four years I’ve followed the contests, challenges, apps, projects, hackathons and people, and there’s been tens of millions granted to organizations and individuals with little structured insight into the movement’s inner workings or even its return on investment.
There’s no visualization or centralized, accessible open data platform that highlights how much is granted to whom, and how these individuals are affiliated with one another. There’s no Influence Explorer or Clear Spending for open government. There’s no regular feedback loop or “OpenGovStat” review that publicly reviews satisfaction or effectiveness to evaluate whether these efforts are solving issues of real importance.
Perhaps we make the assumption that because this is open government “the movement,” it is free from politics, connections or influence, but even the most well-intentioned people and professions fall victim to these traps, especially when unchecked.
As we watch the Knight Foundation News Challenge process begin to allocate millions of dollars to open government efforts, I’d like to see them “double down” on viability and financial clarity within the movement.
Here’s my “GovFresh Challenge” to open government movement leaders and those who fund it: heed your own philosophical approach to metrics and transparency and be more open and collaborative in providing better insight into how you’re leveraging resources.
By doing this, the movement as a whole is better able to assess what’s working and what’s not so that millions more aren’t wasted on pet rocks or efforts that, as they say in government, are non-mission critical. We’ve seen too many projects come and go with a sense of naivete, fanaticism and meme-making to not begin to honestly and publicly evaluate their effectiveness, learn from their mistakes and openly contribute to a better approach.
There’s a solid case to be made on open government’s return on investment. It’s now time for the movement to be more true to itself so we can better evaluate its own ROI.
I hope the open government movement takes me up on my challenge.
I don’t have millions to hand out, but I can guarantee you everyone will win.
Every day I get to engage with entrepreneurs, public sector innovators and journalists on re-imagining and re-energizing how government works, what it means to be “civic,” and this year has been an incredible one for many friends and colleagues.
I’m always inspired talking and working with entrepreneurs trying to solve big civic problems, especially those who realize much of the challenge lies within modernizing and empowering internal government operations, so it was great to finally meet with Govtech Fund Founder and Managing Partner Ron Bouganim this week.
The 18F Delivery team released a “Partnership Playbook” that aims to help federal agencies understand what to expect when working with 18F, and the gem within is play number two, “We work with an empowered product owner.”
Citizens simply glaze over when they are confronted by a sea of large numbers with many zeros. These figures need to be relatable to the person reading the data. Otherwise, open data is just more data that dies on the vine.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs released a beta version of Vets.gov, and it’s the future of federal government digital development.
The Welsh Government released a report of its findings on how local government in Wales can better leverage digital technologies and realize significant savings while still providing quality, scalable citizen services.
A California bipartisan oversight committee, the Little Hoover Commission, has issued recommendations on how the state can bring a more customer-centric government to residents and visitors.
Seneca Systems CEO Chris Maddox shares the inspiration behind the new constituent relationship management system, Romulus.
“No ugly, old IT” jumped out at me when I first reviewed DataSF’s strategic plan, “Data in San Francisco: Meeting supply, spurring demand,” and it still sticks, mostly because someone inside government was so bold as to make this a priority and openly communicate it and also because this should be a mantra for everyone building civic technology.
Enabling internal government tech shops to quickly stand up applications in a secure testing environment is fundamental to quick prototyping, and 18F’s new Cloud.gov is a major step in realizing ultimate IT flexibility.