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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