Recovery.gov, the government's window into stimulus expenditures, on Monday is kicking off a week-long online discussion with IT vendors to improve the site.
The federal government, in partnership with the nonprofit National Academy of Public Administration, is hosting the dialogue to seek "ideas, tools, and approaches" that can make Recovery.gov a place where citizens can "transparently" monitor the spending and use of recovery act funds, the site states.
Participants are supposed to suggest and then vote on the best concepts.
The dialogue will be written, not spoken. This may be an important distinction because rules on stimulus spending prohibit lobbyists, including IT industry lobbyists, from speaking with federal officials about stimulus projects "unless such views are in writing."
An explanation of the event states, "This initiative invites participation in a vendor-neutral, online platform that allows participants to submit ideas on Web site design, data collection, data warehousing, data analysis and visualization, waste, fraud, and abuse detection, and other topics that are key to achieving greater transparency and accountability."
Steven Clift, an online strategist who works to enhance democracy through the use of the Internet, distributed an announcement through his e-mail distribution list and discussion group to publicize and critique the event.
"The U.S. needs both non-profit assisted (like this case) and a government-hosted online public hearing/input platform (I suggest 'liberating' Democracy.Gov from restricted promotion outside the U.S. for shared use by multiple agencies)," he wrote on April 23. "Think 'democracy portal' designed from the citizen not branch/level of government perspective with an 'online conference room' that can be checked out by government agencies and task forces."
Clift goes on to observe that the dialogue will not transpire on whitehouse.gov, which probably won't matter that much so long as the site links to the relevant page on Recovery.gov.
"One recommendation - the online event should host an independent e-mail update list (that doesn't require third party services) and provide daily e-mail summaries/highlights to draw people into contribute," he suggested.