Panelist notes politics of putting agency information online

Patrice McDermott, executive director of OpenTheGovernment.org, chose to participate in a Tuesday workshop sponsored by the World Wide Web Consortium and the Web Science Research Initiative because she wants to convince techies that the government's underutilization of the Internet has a lot to do with politics.

The workshop, held this week at the National Academy of Sciences, brought together government officials, computer scientists, academics, Web standards leaders and government vendors. W3C, an Internet standards group, organized the event to facilitate the deployment of Web standards across government Web sites; help shape research agendas; and guide officials in crafting Web policy that increases access to government information.

After speaking at the event, which was closed to the press, McDermott told Technology Daily: "What the people in there -- mostly technology people -- don't understand is that it's not just a resource decision, it's a political decision to expose that information. It's really more the politics than the policy."

She added that there is nothing in the policy to prevent the Bush administration from "exposing" public records on the Internet, yet government agencies are Web-averse. "What we get is the information that the government wants us to know about," so "we don't know what we don't know," McDermott said.

While techies want the government to venture into the "semantic Web" -- an evolving, more intelligent Internet that can deeply analyze content, McDermott said, "we'd like to get to Web 1.0" first.

She said that at the workshop, attendees told her that government agencies just need to make their databases available on the Internet, and others in the online community will reformat the contents so the information is compatible with new technologies. "Others will create the [topical] tags" that allow the content to be integrated into advanced Web technologies, they said.

McDermott's reply: The policy is already there to do that. "It's been there for years. It's just not being enforced. It takes leadership from the White House."

She pointed to the Environmental Protection Agency as an example. "Our experience with the Web is Clinton and Bush. During the Clinton administration, people could call people in the office of pollution control ... and say, 'What else do you have that is not online?'" Agency employees were willing to provide whatever hard data they had in the building.

Today, she said, agencies are not always aware themselves of the information they have collected.

Brand Niemann, an EPA official and co-chair of the CIO Council's Semantic Interoperability Community of Practice, who was in the room with McDermott, told Technology Daily, "I offered to have her give me a list of things that she needed and I would make sure she got them."

He added that McDermott's criticisms were not consistent with his experiences at EPA.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.