Nov 17, 2008

Government 2.0

Every street in Manhattan is watched by a dozen computerized surveillance cameras. Meanwhile, in a city not so far away, the president works in an office devoid of laptops, Blackberry's and iPhones. He relies on printed documents and verbal communications. The president has the power to avoid surveillance. But to do so he must also give up using Internet toys.

The abstinence of technology in the oval office may be about to change. Obama is reported to be quite fond of his Blackberry, and may look for ways to introduce a laptop to the Oval office.

The topic was recently raised on Slashdot, which asked its readers how to build a web 2.0 government?

InKubus gave one insightful response:

I would like to see some good version control. If you look at the congressional record, it's full of crap like "Strike out the sixth sentence of chapter 12, paragraph 348, replacing with: 'b. except where already addressed under USC 90.01.23'"

WTF? I would like something like Trac where you can click on ANY statement in the US Code and see instantly:

  • What changes have been made, over time
  • Who sponsored the changes
  • Who voted for, against, present
  • Links to related code, as needed
  • Public opinion related to the law
  • Press releases by public offices/personel about the law

All with a nice Google timeline kindof interface.

Version control is one of the secret sauces of the software industry. It tracks every change to a codebase, and lets programmers see who made which changes, and to easily compare different versions of a document.

So far, very few people outside the code world have heard of tools like SVN, a powerful version control application. I agree with InKubus that adopting such a tool in congress would be a major shift in governance, and one I would welcome. Obama, you said you would bring change. How about tools to track those changes too?

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