In the old days, information was a one-way avenue; government would distribute information to news and media outlets that then added their political or demographic agenda and redistributed it to the general public in the form of censored TV newscasts, radio shows and other legacy media outlets.
Welcome to the 21st century and to a world driven by information technology shared and crowdsourced by social media such as blogs, wikis, forums and social networks, where we have experienced a shift in the process of information and data, a time when the power does not reside with those that hold the information, but with those who share it. We all know that government and democracy died behind closed doors. For many years our generation sat on the backseat sharing and collaborating information by using our cell phones and social networks more efficiently and faster than any other government agency using multi-million software technologies.
Today, the type of democratized information our generation shares and collaborates still does not exist in our government. What we have is the equivalent of a locomotive and central generator power house government, co-existing in a world of advanced high speed bullet trains and the age of the power grid. The technology to consolidate and share government information has already been invented and is already in used by your average 12 year old that shares information by writing a blog entry into his MySpace, posting a YouTube video or twitting his latest “status”.
How do we accomplish data consolidation?
Let’s define the purpose of data accessibility and consolidation, why would we want to do this?
•And to bridge the gap between our generation and government.
Before I delve into each category and why this idea is important, let's assume Data.gov has launched and some government data is now easily accessible.
Let me paint a real-life scenario, let’s assume federal, state, and local government data was easily accessible and consolidated into one single data feed and source at Data.gov. What we would have would then yield useful applications that could have a significant impact for “we the people”.
For example, let’s study an application designed for the Washington D.C. area named iLive.at. This application allows you to put in your home address on your phone or personal computer and based on that address, it informs you of the crimes that happened in your neighborhood, the closest bank and things of interest near you. It lets you find the buses and trains and when they are coming. So it really takes all those state and local government data feeds and gives them to you in the context of your address, presented in an interface that is not only useful but easy to understand. Now to this application add the ability for any citizen to be able to comment, rate and contribute content in the form of pictures, videos and blog entries.
This application is the prime example of consolidated government data feeds we the people can benefit from. Let’s not stop at the application level, instead let’s assume that keeping with the spirit of one of our most innovative information technology companies, Google, we create a “government suite” of applications based on the concept of collaborative, open standards and consolidated federal, state and local data feeds. A suite of applications that when downloaded to our mobile phones, laptops and personal computers allows to share, participate and be part of the inner workings of our federal, state and local government, all thanks to data consolidation.
By Erick Gonzalez
U.S. Navy Veteran and Government 2.0 Consultant