Transparency as stimulus

Gov­ern­ment agen­cies and insti­tu­tions can cre­ate oppor­tu­ni­ty by pro­vid­ing direct access to data, not just to their own rep­re­sen­ta­tion of data, which is inevitably selec­tive and prone to spin. Access to data means that entre­pre­neurs can access and devel­op on top of the data, cre­at­ing new indus­tries, tech­nolo­gies and eco­nom­ic ‘spillover’ ben­e­fits.

Pos­si­bly the most strik­ing exam­ple of a new indus­try cre­at­ed by data fol­lowed the deci­sion by Pres­i­dent Clin­ton to reverse the inten­tion­al degrad­ing of the GPS satel­lite sig­nal, releas­ing accu­rate glob­al posi­tion­ing data that the gov­ern­ment already col­lect­ed, direct­ly to the pub­lic. It was the birth of a mul­ti-bil­lion dol­lar indus­try (GPS decoders) in the USA alone and led to the cre­ation of mul­ti-bil­lions more in net con­sumer ben­e­fits.

Title XV of H.R.1. is enti­tled: “Account­abil­i­ty and Trans­paren­cy”. It estab­lish­es the:

Recov­ery Account­abil­i­ty and Trans­paren­cy Board to coor­di­nate and con­duct over­sight of cov­ered funds to pre­vent fraud, waste, and abuse.”

The Title goes on to spec­i­fy the pur­pose of the Board is to make clear, detailed reports on expen­di­ture using a pub­lic web­site:

"(a) Establishment.--The Board shall establish and maintain, no later than 30 days after enactment of this Act, a user- friendly, public-facing website to foster greater accountability and transparency in the use of covered funds. (b) Purpose.--The website established and maintained under subsection (a) shall be a portal or gateway to key information relating to this Act and provide connections to other Government websites with related information. (c) Content and Function.--In establishing the website established and maintained under subsection (a), the Board shall ensure the following: (1) The website shall provide materials explaining what this Act means for citizens. The materials shall be easy to understand and regularly updated. (2) The website shall provide accountability information, including findings from audits, inspectors general, and the Government Accountability Office. (3) The website shall provide data on relevant economic, financial, grant, and contract information in user-friendly visual presentations to enhance public awareness of the use of covered funds…"

Try it out now. Recovery.gov is not yet dis­play­ing data but it looks like an encour­ag­ing start.

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