Renting Movies More Important than Regulation?

Jim Willis, the Director of eGovernment for the Office of Secretary of State Matthew Brown (RI) and Technical Chair for the Government Open Code Collaborative, spoke at the ACR conference today. He gave a great presentation on the possibilities of RSS in the publication of government information. The following quote comes from Jim via the GOCC weblog.

It is simply unacceptable at this point in history that a citizen can use web services to track the movies he is renting, the weather around his house, and the books he’s recently purchased but cannot as easily monitor data regarding the quality of his drinking water, legislation or regulations that will directly impact his work or personal life, what contracts are currently available to bid on for his state, or what crimes have recently occurred on his street.


Filed under Conferences, Technology

3 responses to “Renting Movies More Important than Regulation?

  1. Jim Willis

    Thanks for the kind words ken!Here are some of the links I referenced in my presentation; Viall’s (RI.GOV) *excellent* RSS presentation

  2. Jim Willis

    one more, sorry . . .Wikipedia entry on RSS

  3. Mike Broschinsky

    Whether this is unacceptable or not rather depends upon one’s point of view. Extracting information from government has never been easy; quite frankly, extracting information from the private sector has never been easy either.The types of information Mr. Willis describes are made available for one purpose: to give the appearance of maximizing service so that the customer will return. Returning customers equal profit maximization. But are other types of corporate information easily available online? Can we view CEO salaries easily, downloand without difficulty the number of jobs the coporation has moved out of the country, the agreements amongst corporations to fix prices for a good or service? No. Why not? Because this type of information produces no profit, and damages the perception of the corporation among the public.There is no profit motive in government. There are no customers–government reinvention enthusiasts notwithstanding–in government. What is the motivation for government to make information freely available? The philisophical justification can be found in the epigraph to Ken’s blog, taken from Madison: “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance. . . .” But Madison’s statement presupposes two things: a people who wish to participate in their own government, and a government that wishes the people to participate. The sad reality today is that the people on the one hand have in many ways abdicated their governmental responsibilities and the government–all rhetoric aside–has been more than willing to allow this abdication.While I agree with the philosophical motivation, legislatures and executive offices are moved, so I believe, more by practical issues. What is the value of information dissemination to these bodies? What are the risks? Are the risks potentially greater than the tangible benefits?Too often we look to technology as a panacea for our ills. Is it unacceptable that citizens can track purchases more easily than regulations? Yes. But the question that must be asked is, “Does the citizen want to track regulations?” We do not, in fact, know the answer to this question; my suspicion is that the answer for the majority is “no.” And perhaps this is where our efforts should lie: in helping the citizen reawaken to his or her reponsibilities in the structure and function of their government.RSS is great. Information is useful. Information for information’s sake is not.