March 01 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Government Year: 2008 Rating: 11
It’s no secret that we have a problem. The American political system is a bit secretive, quite inefficient and wastes a good amount of our resources. Such is the nature of gigantic bureaucracies.
Like any problem, to solve it we must first quantify or count it. With large groups of people involved, any such quantification must be very accurate and very easy to understand at a glance.
This notion is nearly synonymous with a concept that David Stephenson refers to as transparent government, or “using Web 2.0 apps … to allow informed debate on policy alternatives, to find convergences (possible synergies—and wasteful overlaps), and to allow people with particular interests and/or expertise to contribute to issues.”
Thanks to the evolution of the web and internet applications, we’ll soon take a big leap in our ability to simulate super-complex political systems (especially if they are computer-dependent). Two fundamental, yet eminently do-able, steps remain to be taken:
1) make the majority of government information machine-readable
2) put emerging semantic web applications to work crunching this data
Change will swiftly follow if we can accurately and neatly organize political relationship trees, decision patterns and funding flows into a digestible “graph” that anyone can easily re-sort and view a million different ways from a billion different directions.
If transparency proponents like Barack Obama have their way, then govt data will be made “available online in universally accessible formats.” His campaign argues that this will “allow citizens to make use of that data to comment, derive value, and take action in their own communities.” (Kinda sounds like Stephenson, no?)
If companies like Twine , Metaweb, and Adaptive Blue have theirs, we’ll soon have access to highly useful, user-friendly semantic technologies that can quickly organize any body of rich information, especially social information.
My gut tells me that it’ll be harder for a politician to successfully push through transparency legislation than for the semantic start-ups to perfect and scale their products.
But technology has a funny way of getting what it wants and perhaps the onset of the semantic web will encourage crafty foresighted politicians to include machine-readable government in their platforms. Passionate thought-leaders like Lawrence Lessig and get-things-done influencers like NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg could accelerate the process by throwing their weight behind the candidates with the smartest approaches to governing.
While I am not committed to any particular political party, I am committed to the quantification of government, to a reasonable extent, through transparency. This is an issue that will figure in when I decide who to support at any political level.
Counting our problems sooner than later will help us to solve them sooner than later.