Standards and eGovernment

March 12, 2009

The Obama administration seems to be shifting from topical silo portals to a single point of access; that is, Most people don’t care. The implications of this shift hit some government managers and quite a few contractors. If you are interested in eGovernment  or eGov, you may want to scan this XBRL Blog Magazine article “Free the Data: eGov and Open Standards” here. “XBRL” stands for Extensible business Report Language. No, I am not sure what that embraces either. Nevertheless, the write up on march 12, 2009, struck me as thought provoking. The hook for the write up is the Obama technology officer, Vivek Kundra, and his support for “open” approaches. Most government contractors are not too keen on open anything. Washington, DC, was not built on openness and for some, the idea is anathemic. For me, the most interesting comment in the write up was:

The key to the success of this plan is to ensure that there is some agreement across all federal agencies that defines a shared common ‘open’ data standard and identifies how deeply they are willing to push the tagging of data gathered into the collection processes for Recovery Act funding applications and into the financial reporting between the federal, state, and local agencies who are to be the recipients of the Recovery Act funds. Currently, the plan is to only go one level deep — the federal agency will require recipient reporting only from the primary agency receiving the funds.

The problem is not promulgating guidelines. The problem is that it can take months, if not years, for an executive order or OMB mandates to reach the rank and file in an Executive Branch agency and then gain traction. When I was working in Washington, I heard that one term presidents could not make much of an impact because the process of disseminating and implementing a change took more than four years. Without two terms, Federal agencies just keep on doing what each has been doing for decades–preventing staff cuts and budget reductions, expanding programs, and protecting turf.

Making substantive change to break some of the commercial – government agency information connections, adopting standards, and moving from walled gardens to gardens with unlocked gates is a fine idea. I just don’t think change will take place quickly. It is easier to write about change than create it, particularly in governmental agencies engaged in silo construction and preservation.

Stephen Arnold, March 12, 2009


2 Responses to “Standards and eGovernment”

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