Thursday, April 30, 2009

National Dialogue on U.S. Stimulus

This week you can witness a bold experiment in Gov 2.0. The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board and the Office of Management and Budget in partnership with the National Academy of Public Administration, is currently hosting a week-long national online dialogue to engage leading information technology (IT) vendors, thinkers, and consumers to provide ideas on how best to use Recovery.gov as a place to monitor the expenditure and use of recovery funds.

The format of the site is for a user to suggest an idea, and then other users submit comments on that idea. Most of the ideas I read were vendors touting software products, although some were more general. Ideas are rated by visitors on a scale of 1 to five stars. As of today, near the end of the discussion period, fewer than 300 ideas had been posted. The highest rated idea was four stars. The highest number of comments for an idea was 31 comments. Most of the ideas have no rating and no comments.

The site is interesting and raises many questions about governing in the current era. What is the role of sites like this for policy debates in the future? How much weight will be put on these "ideas" in decisions? Does the site itself allow enough transparency? Does the use of aliases for contributors and the ability to create multiple accounts to vote for your own ideas make the approach too vulnerable to gaming? How do we know that people contributing are U.S. citizens? Does this matter? What about the digital divide and those who do not have access to this site?

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