Connecting the Dots for Democratic Accountability: Semantic Web-Based Information Sharing Policy and the Future of Investigative Reporting
iSolon.org; Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics
October 22, 2010
Since 9/11, there has been a revolution in government information sharing technology and policy for national security purposes, such as tracking potential terrorists. It’s now possible for government employees to connect the dots on national security risks across tens of thousands of government agencies at national, state, and local levels of government.
This paper addresses two central questions: 1) if the government can connect the dots for government users of national security data, why not for citizens and journalists seeking democratic accountability data? 2) To what extent is the government’s information sharing framework for national security an appropriate framework for democratic accountability?
In answer to the first question, the paper argues that the time has come to revolutionize government transparency through the use of new, governmentwide information sharing technologies. In answer to the second question, the paper argues that the government’s core nformation sharing standards for national security may be a good foundation for democratic accountability data standards but not the institutions created to build upon and implement those standards. It suggests that the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) and International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) may provide a better institutional model.
In making its argument, the paper focuses on issues associated with connecting the dots for animate objects (such as elected officials, those that influence elected officials, and those that receive resources granted by elected officials) rather than inanimate objects (such as legislation, government budgets, and campaign contributions). This is because animate objects hold political power, are the ultimate objects of democratic accountability, and are at the center of debates over fair information practices.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 30
Keywords: semantic web, niem, open government, UCore, privacy, trade secrets, information policy, government transparency, democratic reform, information sharing program
JEL Classification: D72, P16working papers series
Date posted: December 21, 2010
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