In 2009 President Obama, as his first decision as President of the United States, issued his first executive order that required agencies to identify and release “high value” data sets. The problem was that many did not release this information. In 2013, President Obama pushed an Executive Order that mandated all data be open. This push for openness and transparency in the government has led to the term open government. However, Obama’s true goal was for both an open and collaborative government. As Obama’s memorandum states:
“My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”Openness will strengthen our #democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in #Government. Click To Tweet
This has culminated to what has been termed Gov 2.0. While often interchanged with open government, Gov 2.0 focuses more on utilizing open, collaborative technology to create a platform where the government and people can work together to improve services.
Although these online initiatives might not always provide a direct dollar value to governing bodies, they make up for it by strengthening accountability, building trust and increasing citizen satisfaction. However, just offering information is not enough. It needs to be presented in a way people can understand, absorb and take action on. While the word ‘open’ might be in the term, what truly matters in an open government isn’t necessarily transparency per se, but how it can positively affect people’s lives by:
- Reducing inequality and poverty
- Increasing access to affordable healthcare
- Reducing the effect of climate change
- Increasing awareness of current events and policies
In order to do so, government entities would need to take a different approach to openness by addressing the real issues and values of its citizens while also encouraging engagement.
One of the best ways to encourage public discourse is by utilizing more visual tools and dashboards. Studies suggest most people will remember visual information far better than simple text. Not only that, but in today’s mobile world, most people don’t have the time to read through pages and pages of government documents to find out what exactly is going on.
Data visualizations and dashboards are a simple and effective way to solve this problem. Dashboards can provide users with an in-depth visual overview of what exactly is going on, whether that’s how the city is allocating its budget to seeing a graphical representation of crime rate by neighborhood. Not only does this allow people to make informed decisions, but to also take action. For example, some people might notice they live in an area with a high rate of burglary and set up a neighborhood watch. This helps reduce crime without spending any government money as the community does the work voluntarily.
More importantly, these visual dashboards can sync with government databases and provide up-to-date information at all times. When set up properly, it doesn’t take any additional time for government workers to maintain so long as they set up the information flow properly. Services like the one iDashboards’ framework provides , not only compile all the data, but also create the visual dashboard.
Although it might be hard to measure the true impact of government transparency and open government since it’s still relatively new, as more businesses and developers take advantage of the information and empower citizens to take action, there should be a noticeable trend. And as more and more people participate and collaborate, hopefully more government bodies will jump on the Gov 2.0 bandwagon.