Starting on April 27th, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board and the OMB in partnership with the National Academy of Public Administration will run a national online dialogue to engage leading information technology (IT) vendors, thinkers, and consumers in answering the following question:
What ideas, tools, and approaches can make Recovery.gov a place where all citizens can transparently monitor the expenditure and use of recovery funds?
For one week, participants from across the IT community will be able to recommend, discuss, and vote on the best ideas, tools, and approaches.
This approach has been used already by the Obama administration, although for less technical issues such as arranging questions for the President. Other jurisdictions have been doing similar things to ask constituents how to use recovery money (see my earlier post about Virginia, which is where the new CTO comes from).
Whereas the approach of engaging IT vendors and others in finding technical solutions is very attractive, it is less clear how a discussion about architectures and products cutting across a variety of areas (from web design to data management, from visualization to analytics) can be fruitfully conducted in such a short period of time.
Of course this is just an initial phase to gather input from a larger community, and the most promising ideas will be used as input for starting the actual design. In any case, it certainly needs to be orchestrated in such a way that allows new, simple ideas to pop up and not be obfuscated by the complexity of the overall architectural discussion.
Therefore it would be ideal to have a very high level strawman architecture that allows participants to focus on different elements and make idea comparison and voting more effective.
Another significant challenge will be how to turn whichever best idea will emerge into a system that can be procured rapidly enough. Since time is the essence, I wonder whether this will force the use of inexpensive consumer and open source tools as well as government technical staff to get a working prototype soon enough.