Key areas of attention remain

September 25, 2012

The Federal Computer Week has brought my attention to a report from the Government Accountability Office in the USA entitled “ELECTRONIC GOVERNMENT ACT Agencies Have Implemented Most Provisions, but Key Areas of Attention Remain” (PDF, 574 Kb, 50 pages), hardly a slick title but it summarises the report in a long breath. The report talks in fairly woolly terms about how the OMB (Office of Management & Budget) and other federal agencies have taken actions to comply with the ten-year-old E-Government Act but concludes that:

“However, key areas of attention remain to accomplish the act’s purposes of promoting electronic government and use of other technologies. For example, while the federal government continues to take actions to improve transparency through various websites, we have reported on concerns with the accuracy and reliability of this information. Also, OMB has not met the act’s requirement for establishing a website and repository that are to provide information about research and development funded by the federal government, which would assist the public in tracking the government’s investment in basic research.”

The first issue is a matter related to on this blog before that open data is only of value if it is accurate and timely, it also needs to be of value to the citizen or those ensuring accountability. It is no good publishing data if its resultant analysis is of little or no value to the citizen. The second one will be of wider interest, although I am sure substantial duplication and waste would be revealed.

Fascinatingly for those in the UK the report also reveals that “according to a report published as part of the .gov Reform Initiative 56 agencies reported maintaining 1,489 domains and an estimated 11,013 websites” [Emboldening mine]. Although it admits most get to them via search engines, as if the quantity of sites that require maintenance, licensing and hosting does not matter! My personal issue when reading the report was that the action of the OMB issuing a memorandum requesting actions to be carried out by federal bodies would appear to be satisfactory, whether or not they occurred – has anybody checked? The fact that the OMB issues a memo requiring privacy or usability to be suitably managed appears to be enough, whilst I would hope at least a sample (out of the 11k plus) are physically checked for some consistency and compliance.

However, whilst drafting this a Tweet from Alex Howard (aka @digiphile ) points me to another new report – “Civil Society Progress Report on the US National Action Plan” (PDF, 650 Kb, 24 pages) which considers the government of the USA is at least partially meeting most of its targets, although it doesn’t mention opening up spending data on R&D investrments. This report, at least, makes a pretty good summary and advisory note of what to press on with federally in the e-government nation.