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FCW : November 30, 2012
November 30, 2012 FCW.COM 9 Agency officials should get ready because the public has one more tool for seeking information and answers from the federal government. The Electronic Frontier Foundation recently unveiled the Transparency Project, which combines the organiza- tion s long-standing efforts to le and litigate federal Freedom of Informa- tion Act requests with new efforts to report transparency issues in a more easily accessible format. "It s a bit of a relaunch for us," said Jennifer Lynch, a staff attorney at EFF. "We ve always had a long-running, successful FOIA project, but we have expanded what we re doing in govern- ment transparency and thought it was time to rebrand and announce our new tools." Among those tools are upgraded document search capabilities that allow users to narrow searches of documents obtained through FOIA requests to speci c issues, agencies, formats and dates. Users can also sift through his- torical government transparency data and explore how to create and le their own FOIA requests. The government has taken steps to improve accountability in recent months, said Joey Hutcherson, depu- ty director of open government at the Commerce Department. In October, Commerce and several other agen- cies launched FOIAonline, a website that allows the public to submit FOIA requests to participating agencies, track the status of those requests and search for requests submitted by others. Hutcherson said the FOIA data is packaged in a format that allows users to quickly search through it and put it to use. He added that records at FOIA- online are more in-depth and speci c than the broad datasets published at FOIA.gov, which the Justice Depart- ment operates. "We are trying to be open and trans- parent," Hutcherson said. "We re trying to do the right thing because we work for the taxpayers. For a long time, we were in the 19th century, but it was our responsibility to the American people to improve." Nevertheless, Lynch said that although agency efforts like FOIA. gov and FOIAonline are valuable, they do not reduce the need for watchdog projects. Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, agreed. He said watchdogs and whistleblowers have organized a deeply rooted coalition of public inter- est groups that focus on government transparency and accountability --- and for good reason. "The government has a con ict of interest keeping itself accountable," Devine said. "The key principle for a free society is that information is power, and as a result, our system of checks and balances cannot work credibly unless public nongovernmental orga- nizations are enfranchised in the front line of those checks and balances." Watchdog group unveils new transparency project Feds make list of democracy's top innovators What do Federal CIO Steven Van- Roekel, Chief Technology Of cer Todd Park, the State Depart- ment s Alec Ross, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Issa staffer Seamus Kraft, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor s adviser Matt Lira, White House Director of New Media Macon Phil- lips, and President Barack Obama have in common? Yes, they all have Twit- ter accounts, but at this stage, who doesn t? What sets these eight apart is that each makes the cut on Tech- Crunch s list of the 20 Most Innovative People in Democracy in 2012. "Technology has radically democ- ratized nearly every social institu- tion and industry except democracy itself," notes Gregory Ferenstein in an article on the Tech- Crunch news site, but "a handful among us are pioneering ways to bring transparency and inter- activity to the process of self-government." Non-Washingtonians on the list include Google s Eric Schmidt, academic James Fowler, WikiLeaks Julian Assange and --- notably on an otherwise woman-free list --- Code for America s Jennifer Pahlka. TechCrunch isn't the only organization to recognize the talents of Alec Ross. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's senior adviser for innovation, Ross won a Federal 100 award in 2011 for leading a major transformation in diplomacy and international relations by incorporating social media. It is for leaders like these that FCW created the annual Federal 100 awards to recognize 100 individuals in government and industry who have played pivotal roles in the federal IT community. The nomination period for 2013 is now open. Federal 100 awards recognize the achievements of individuals, not teams or projects. And although previous publicity is no disquali er, we are looking for the unsung heroes who have made a difference through their creativity, energy and sheer tenacity. All nominations must be made online at FCW.com and must be submitted by midnight on Dec. 21. Go to fcw.com/fed100 to learn more and help identify the next Federal 100. Federal 100 nominations now open $1 billion invested in a new Air Force logistics management system that was scrapped because of "negligible" value Alec Ross
November 15, 2012