August 15, 2008 By Steve Towns
Is the best government Web site not a government site at all? A June paper released by Princeton University researchers said government agencies should feed information to third-party sites instead of developing their own sites.
"Today, government bodies consider their own Web sites to be a higher priority than technical infrastructures that open up their data for others to use. We would argue that this understanding is a mistake," the researchers said. Government should understand providing reusable data, rather than Web sites, is its online main publishing responsibility.
The paper recommended agencies focus on delivering data in structured, machine-readable formats like XML that third-party Web developers can quickly consume. Researchers said the approach would encourage mash-ups of diverse data sources, greater use of government information on discussion forums and wikis, and better incorporation of government data into advanced third-party visualization tools.
"Private actors, either nonprofit or commercial, are better suited to deliver government information to citizens and can constantly create and reshape the tools individuals use to find and leverage public data," the paper said.
A draft version of the paper is available online. A final version will be published in the Fall 2008 Yale Journal of Law and Technology.
This Digital Communities white paper highlights discussions with IT officials in four counties that have adopted shared services models. Our aim was to learn about the obstacles these governments have faced when it comes to shared services and what it takes to overcome those roadblocks. We also spoke with several members of the IT industry who have thought long and hard about these issues. The paper offers some best practices for shared government-to-government services, but also points out challenges that government and industry still must overcome before this model gains widespread adoption.