WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Tuesday called on the federal government to learn from technological innovations used by the private sector to improve the delivery of government information and services. At a hearing titled “E-Government 2.0: Improving Innovation, Collaboration and Access,” leading public and private sector witnesses discussed the challenges of making federal government information more accessible, transparent, and interactive.
“These issues of accessibility, accountability, interactivity, and public collaboration are essential to the future of an effective and responsive government,” Lieberman said. “Just as the private sector has harnessed new technologies to fuel its growth in an information-based economy, we in government must keep pace with the skill set of the up and coming workforce to meet the expectations of the public.”
At the heart of the discussion was the E-Government Authorization Act of 2007, S. 2321, which would extend for five years landmark legislation Lieberman originally authored in 2002 to improve the federal government’s presence on the Internet.
Lieberman also announced he would introduce new legislation to make Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports more accessible to the public. The Senator already makes numerous CRS reports available on his website, but the process is cumbersome and the reports should be even more widely accessible. And he vowed to help provide the public with more information on legislative activities than is currently available on the website THOMAS.gov.
The Senator noted that a major problem is that information provided on government websites frequently is not accessible to commercial search engines. John Lewis Needham, Manager of Public Sector Content Partnerships for Google, Inc., testified that the problem could be fixed easily if government systems administrators properly indexed their websites.
The founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales called on government agencies to seek new ways of using technology to effectively collaborate with the public. He cited the success of Intelipedia, a closed website which allows intelligence officers across the world to share vital information in real time.
“Much has been achieved over the past five years and much can be achieved in the future with adequate support for critical provisions, including cross-cutting initiatives and government-wide requirements for information security and privacy,” said Lieberman.
Other witnesses included Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Office of Electronic Government and Information Technology Administrator Karen Evans, and Ari Schwartz, Deputy Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology
The E-Government Reauthorization Act of 2007, introduced by Lieberman, passed the Committee on November 14, 2007, and is awaiting a Senate vote. It would increase government accessibility and transparency by, among other things, requiring the OMB to work with federal agencies to make sure their information and services can be found by search engines.