New FCC Report: Information Needs of Communities

“The FCC Working Group on the Information Needs of Communities today delivered an in-depth analysis of the current state of the media landscape along with a broad range of recommendations. The staff-level report, titled “Information Needs of Communities: The Changing Media Landscape in a Broadband Age” [full PDF here or read by chapter here] was delivered to the FCC at an open commission meeting.” (source)

Information Needs of Communities - The Changing Media Landscape in a Broadband Age - Cover Photo

The report also talks about Government Transparency (download just that chapter here [PDF]).

Here are some key findings from the report as it regards to transparency in government and related issues…

Government Transparency

  • “Greater openness by government—at all levels—can make it easier for Americans to inform themselves and for both citizen and professional reporters to hold institutions accountable.” (p. 350)

  • “Make it easier for citizens to monitor their government by putting more proceedings, documents and data online” (p. 350)
    • “First, citizens should be able to more easily monitor the workings of state and local government.” (p. 350)
    • every state should have a vibrant public affairs network, a state-based C-SPAN.” (p. 350; emphasis in original)
    • “Second, and just as important, governments at all levels should put far more data and information online, and do it in ways that are designed to be most useful.” (p. 350; emphasis in original)
  • Government transparency improves information flow three ways: directly to citizens themselves, through “information entrepreneurs,” and through journalists.” (p. 204, emphasis added)
  • “Greater transparency by government and media companies can help reduce the cost of reporting, empower consumers, and foster innovation.” (p. 28)
  • “We offer no magic bullet or magic app. Rather, government policy changes should focus on three primary goals: increasing transparency, making better use of the public’s existing resources, and removing obstacles to innovation” (p. 346, emphasis added)

FOIA

  • Public records law should carry a presumption in favor of releasing documents… (cont’d below)”

  • “…whose disclosure would not undermine national security, public safety, compelling privacy interests, trade secrets, or law enforcement. Those responsible for compliance with open records laws should be fully trained, so that they are aware of the relevant laws governing what counts as “confidential” versus “public” information. Agencies should post responses to information requests online to avoid duplication in requests and redundant compliance efforts.” (p. 351; emphasis added)
  • More on FOIA-related statements can be found in the chapter on Government Transparency (PDF)

Open Data

  • How it helps government: “These approaches can make government more effective and efficient.” (p. 351)

  • “For instance, the FCC recently undertook to document broadband speeds in different parts of the country. Instead of sending out, say, half a dozen researchers to report on variations, they built an application that allowed citizens to perform tests themselves and report the data to the FCC. Two million submissions resulted.” (p. 351)
  • There is great variety in the city datasets that prove popular. In May 2010, San Franciscans searched most often for traffic accident data, school dropout data, information on library books available in the San Francisco Public Library, and information on Treasure Island development plans.[23] In Seattle, neighborhood maps, crime statistics, active building permits, and a list of the locations of the city’s public toilets were among those most-frequently accessed.[24] The District of Columbia’s most popular datasets are those on juvenile arrests and charges, crime incidents, purchase orders, and public space permits.[25] In Ann Arbor, Michigan, the most downloaded datasets are the city boundary data, records of checks or fund transfers issued to the city, and a graphic representation of land use planning parcels.[26]” (p. 204; emphasis added; see here for footnote details)
  • “Not only do open government initiatives support direct citizen access to information, they support private sector and nonprofit entrepreneurs who create applications to organize and structure government data so that it can be searched and utilized.” (p. 204; emphasis added)
  • It matters greatly how this information organized. It needs to be put out in standardized, machine-readable, structured formats that make it easy for programmers to create new applications that can present the data in more useful formats, or combine one agency’s information with another. Data releases should include an Application Programming Interface (API) that allows the data to be shared easily with other computers and applications.” (p. 351; some emphasis added/in original)
*The quotes for this were taken out of various places from the full report. The headings that they are under here do not necessarily mean that they were under those headings in the report.

A similar version of this was originally posted at the company that I work for's product blog (Disclosure: the product deals w/ transparency, gov't, & technology)

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