This is my rough draft in my work with the W3C E-Gov Interest Group. I wanted to get comments from those working on social media in government as we work to finalize our recommendations. Please keep in mind this is for an international standard, so I have no assumed that 508 compliance is required but rather wrote about what compliance policies in digital age should take into consideration.
For the full post, go here.
Multi-Channel Distribution Standards.
Distribution of content to non-Government Websites
In an age of connected data, standards are not just about the format of information but are also about availability and fair distribution. A balance must be achieved so that distribution of information does not become a barrier limiting the amount of information which is distributed.
In the digital age, information is key to both economic and social development of societies. Therefore, governments need to prioritize making the most information available through broadly distributed channels over limiting information in order to make it most broadly available and distributed. This is a classic 90/10 effort issue, where the last 10% of effort to broaden distribution and availability to near perfection would take 90% of the effort. Too often governments have opted for an all or none method in information distribution and it has resulted in less distribution and a lesser good for the public as a whole. The amount of information is too vast given the current state of information storage formats and technology to make all information accessible through all conceivable methods and channels. Accepting this fact and opening up government data needs to be the priority.
That having been said, wide-spread availability should not be discarded but rather a system should be in place to determine which information warrants the broadest, most accessible distribution and which information should be posted but does not warrant extra effort to increase availability. (Of course in both cases, the format chosen should be a non-proprietary one so that the public may redistribute the information if it chooses.) Concern for availability may be handled by providing a government sponsored service which can provide specific data in more accessible formats on demand.
This is not a radical departure from traditional accommodations but rather a continuation of choices which have become routine. An excellent example to understand how this is an extension of existing policies is to consider library books and the blind in the US. Library books for the sighted are more widely available and more easily available at libraries across the country, but Braille versions of books can be accessed on demand through the Library of Congress’ National Library Service for the Blind and Handicapped. A similar program could be developed for on-demand access of multimedia material for the handicapped. That having been said, basic accommodations which can easily be built into websites to promote availability should be addressed with social media providers by encouraging broad availability to their material and links should be provide on multimedia home pages on how to request more accessible versions such as closed captioned videos.
For expansion on availability and fair distribution and a vision of a central feed to address these issues goto the full post.
Governments should clearly prioritize distribution and accessibility options which do not pose barriers which would result decrease the amount of information distribution. At the same time some consideration to disabled users, users without high bandwidth and high cost devices, as well as devices, platforms and websites with smaller audiences should be taken for high priority information as well as possible on-demand conversion services. A low-barrier method which could serve as a base from which to achieve these accomodations would be a central text-based multimedia index feed containing hyperlinks to content in open formats. This feed would be searchable from both text based mobile and internet browsers and contain context information which would allow replication of the content posting which were created on non-government websites by government officials. If possible this central feed would facilitate posting of content to websites by those website owners, so that the websites themselves can opt in to the distribution.