Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"We Were Really Bad about Telling the World about It"

When the United States boasted about being the world leader in data transparency and gifting its expertise to Great Britain, I expressed my skepticism here. The session at the Gov 2.0 Expo on "Four Perspectives on" seemed designed to confirm my suspicions definitely, as speakers reminded audience members that they were often first in what they called a kind of "arms race" for which nation would have the greatest government transparency. As Dominic Campbell of pointed out, despite leading the way in the competition to launch Gov 2.0 initiatives, "we were really bad about telling the world about it for a while." He also argued that the transparency efforts of were civil service driven rather than politically driven, as such efforts were in the U.S.

Several speakers on this panel organized by Tim Berners-Lee noted the oddity of the particular political moment in great Britain now that the "new marriage" of the Conservative and the Liberal Democratic parties had begun after years of Labor party rule. They noted that the Conservative Party had actually issued a Technology Manifesto, although "her majesty's shrinking budget" was also changing the technology scene.

Chris Thorpe of The Guardian noted that in March 9, 2006, Charles Arthur called upon the government to "free our data" long before the Obama administration took office. He also pointed to the success of the initiative Rewired State, which appeared three years later. Also worthy of note were data visualizations like the Voter Power Index and GIS projects like a map of cycling blackspots, although Thorpe explained that he had personal interest in developing a simple API for schools.

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