Changing government standards and ‘Common Look and Feel’

Most western governments have in the last decade developed an accessibility strategy for their websites, often based on WCAG 1.0. At the end of 2008, the WC3 announced the final version of WCAG 2.0 and the public sector is now struggling to keep up. In Canada there was a recent announcement about a revised Common Look and Feel (CLF). In the USA the Section 508 is in its first of six revisions, part of which will be to adapt to the new approach to standards. I’m not sure that most citizens will notice the changes to government websites, however for both people with disabilities and the tax payers, it will be a very big deal.

Transparency and the digital divide

As I start this post, I’m on the Orange line of the Metro heading home from Transparency Camp 2010. I timed my arrival almost exactly with that of the train using an iPhone app. Now I’m typing on a super-powerful laptop with a huge display. Many Metro stations have 3G access and even though I don’t tether my phone to my computer to use 3G on my laptop, I’m sure it can be done. I have nearly all of the comforts of the digital age at my disposal nearly all of the time.

Does Congress care about open government?

I was honored this week to be invited to testify before the Senate Government Affairs Sub Committee hearing entitled, “Removing the Shroud of Secrecy: Making Government More Transparent and Accountable“. A first panel of government leaders including Vivek Kundra, Aneesh Chopra and US Archivist David Ferriero were invited to discuss progress on Open Government. A second panel of industry and advocacy experts including representatives from the Sunlight Foundation, the National Security Archive and Meritalk Online (and Adobe) were also invited, although our testimony was cut short by procedural maneuvers relevant to the health care debate occurring on the Senate Floor. For the two and half hours we were there, Senators Carper and Coburn participated fully. The hearing may be rescheduled to complete the witness testimony, but in the interim, two things were very clear to me: we have come a long way in recent years but the Open Government movement is still missing critical agents of change in government.

11 ways government can better spread its tech, open government efforts

I’ve talked with a number of government CTOs, CIOs and staff members about their technology and open government initiatives, and most seem disappointed that their efforts aren’t getting as much media visibility as they’d like. While everyone complains about not getting enough press, it is a little surprising some of these stories aren’t getting as much attention as they should.

These won’t land you on Oprah, but here’s a few ways you can make it easier to get on GovFresh and other local, niche news sites.

Today’s Ada Lovelace

I wanted to promote the amazing work of Jennifer Pahlka and Code for America. I first met Jennifer at the Gov 2.0 Summit last year after following her for a while on Twitter and reading her blog PahlkaDot. Jennifer has always impressed me with her passion for making the world a better place and her brilliant mind. I can’t think of anyone better for drawing attention to the achievements of women in technology and science.

Open source matters to open government. Really.

“Open source and open government are not the same,” I’ve been reading recently. When discussing the role of open standards in open government transparency projects, Bob Caudill at Adobe, is concerned that open source and open standards are being conflated. He likes open standards just fine, but …

You go gURL: GSA turns on URL shortener Go.USA.gov

GSA announced it has officially opened up its URL shortener Go.USA.gov to anyone with a .mil, .gov, .fed.us or .si.edu email address. The site lets users create trustworthy short .gov URLs on Twitter and other online services with character restrictions and was developed by the team behind USA.gov along with members of the Drupal community.

Technology should be viewed as a vehicle rather than a destination

I was recently interviewed on Federal News Radio on their In-Depth with Francis Rose program, where I had the opportunity to discuss open government. We discussed the idea that technology should be viewed as a “vehicle” rather than a “destination” and that the real role of technology in open government is that of an enabler of mission success.

I’m finding more and more that these conversations are evolving beyond discussions about government data publication to a focus on how technology, information and behavior can open up government and make it more effective for people who are at risk or in need.

FreshWrap: This week’s posts

A wrap-up of this week’s posts:

Introducing the Cycle of Transparency

Government transparency is that rarest of political phenomena — a great idea with support across the political spectrum and popularity among the public. Yet, here we are in the 21st century with every tool we would need to make government more transparent and accountable, and still we are operating with a government that often behaves as it did in the 19th century.

So, transparent government is a good thing, but we do not yet have one. Now what?

Open vs. Open

As someone who’s been around the block more than once in the technology industry, I’ve had the opportunity to witness a plethora of developments, ideas and concepts, some good, some not so good. One particular debate, or perhaps, a point is confusion, is around the word ‘open’.

Kundra, SF officials promote Open311 API

Here’s video from yesterday’s Open311 press conference in San Francisco, including Vivek Kundra, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, SF CIO Chris Vein and O’Reilly Media’s Tim O’Reilly.

Open government means open analytics

While there’s a push for citizen ideas using collaboration tools, the trend towards open analytics should be just as important, because it exposes what information real users want and where the agency should focus more of its attention. This should be standard practice for all Web/IT departments, so making this information public is as simple as posting it to the agency blog.

Developers for Glory

Although it may be simple to conflate the Apps for Democracy and Apps for America contests with the exciting new Apps for Army contest, they really couldn’t be more different. Together they represent an exciting experiment in what it takes to pull communities together around a problem. Though they all offer cash prizes to the winners, they each took a slightly different approach, with different results.