There’s A Right Way & A Wrong Way
We saw announcements this week from two government entities heading in completely opposite directions when it comes to open government and social media.
First, there was our own Montgomery Council announcing a new cross-government initiative. Called “Open Montgomery”, its goal is to allow residents to open up the hood on the county government and not only access all sorts of data but provide ideas on what folks would like to see from their fair Council and Executive. The initiative also encourages businesses and individuals to take that available data and create applications for public use. The hope is that such openness will re-invent how residents interact with their local government, and help spur new technologies to super-charge even greater connectivity for the local economy. Check out the website at openMontgomery.
Heading in the opposite direction is the U.S. State Department. Apparently, that agency is pondering new rules for social media that would establish bottlenecks for timely information posted to social media sites. According to the blog Diplopundit, higher-ups at State would have up to two days to review social media posts and five days for blogs, before they could be released for posting. Want to find out from your government what’s happening today in some far-flung corner of the globe? Forget about it… or at least check back day after tomorrow.
In this age of real-time news & information, Montgomery County has it right and the State Department is losing its way. Sure, information that could compromise intelligence or the safety of personnel should be protected. But SURELY employees at State could be trained to understand the difference between such critical information that doesn’t get in the way of the public’s right to know. And while I’m sure there will be some material not posted to Montgomery County’s new site (such as something that could jeopardize public safety or criminal investigations), three cheers to our local jurisdiction for understanding that real-time information is power and should be available to the public. And it will be great fun to watch our creative residents take all that data and put it into apps that make our lives better.
After all, isn’t the entire weather forecasting business built on raw data from the government?