Monday, January 19, 2009

Government Online

One of Obama's transition teams, the TIGR (Technology, Innovation and Government Reform) Team makes some bold, yet good "honest sense" statements about transforming our government into a modern and efficient system through the use of new internet technology. If the new administration can pull this off, the effects are hard to imagine initially.

Think about it though.... vision, if you will, a world with no paper and yet ubiquitous and secure access to everything you need. You'd have access to all your medical files, x-rays, images, etc, control over who get's to see them and a record of who and when for every access. All of your interactions with the government could happen anytime at your convenience. People could have clear access to information on legislation, budgets, projects, public police logs, and anything else that is part of the public record. Imagine now a collection of tools (the "mashups" mentioned in the video) that allow researchers, experts, and ordinary citizens to break down the issues and come up with the best possible policies.

It would be nearly impossible and incredibly stupid to commit fraud in such a system. Politicians would have an incredible resource through this participation, and differences would have to be explained directly to the people. This isn't to say that it should be rule by the mob even a complete democracy. The role of the republic in our government is crucial to furthering innovation and progress. The very fact that we will soon be swearing in our 44th president, just 220 years after George Washington took office, says a lot about both the role of leadership and of change.

There will need to be a of lot organization and careful design to make sure things are both secure and yet appropriately open. Coordinating collaboration with such diverse groups will be challenging too, but imagine having topic moderators sponsored across universities in the U.S. and the world. These groups could provide regular updates to data, conduct workshops and conferences, develop presentations, classroom materials, and other media. Most importantly, each group will be responsible for maintaining a model of their part of world system, be it energy, economics, or local crime. These models would explain potential problems and provide tests for different policies.

In all these ideas are pretty much extensions of my Google 10 to the 100th idea which may be up for voting January 27th, 2009 if I'm lucky. Anyway, take 4 minutes and watch the video. It's a bit nerdy, but if you are familiar with the tech and where the government is now in comparison, we are talking about radical change.