Sunday, September 19, 2010

Long Term Implications of Gov 2.0 Legislation

One the projects I worked on this last legislative year was the Oklahoma State Government 2.0 legislation (SB 1759) which I authored with Oklahoma State Senator Anthony Sykes and which went into law a few weeks ago.

The legalization took several dramatic first steps in establishing the framework by which silos of state government data will be opened up to the purview of the public. I believe this may be the first ever comprehensive codification of state-level government 2.0 law.

Senate Bill 1759 not only put in place the procedures by which this data will be released, but also set the standards by which the public can interact with the data. Using these standards, software developers will be able to create applications which can be used to analyze the data and present it to the public in any number of ways. The far-reaching impact of these applications is hard to imagine at this time but will result in state government being accountable like never before possible.

It was our intent to use this legislation as a way of holding government accountable by pushing out the data to taxpayers and incentivizing the free market to develop tools which will allow the taxpayers and government officials to know where taxpayer money is being spent.

However, the data and the tools which will be developed for analyzing the data will have an application which will far exceed that of basic public transparency. I believe these tools will eventually allow state officials to have a set of performance metrics by which they can begin holding various bureaucracies responsible for meeting certain expectations.

Currently, Legislators are limited when attempting to gauge the performance of state agencies. Over time, Oklahoma state government has gotten so large that it now encompasses thousands of employees working through hundreds of agencies, boards and commissions. This government behemoth eats up billions of taxpayer dollars each year. It has become nearly impossible for state leaders to know which of these government groups are acting efficiently and which ones are wasting taxpayer dollars.

Currently, legislators mostly appear to govern through a policy of reviewing a few basic line items of budget data and some high level performance expectations, but are limited in being able to observe how effective or non-effective the actual activities of each state agency are being conducted.

Raw data feeds and the tools that are used to analyze those feeds can be used to report on all agency activities and can be aggregated to give state officials and taxpayers a true measure of the effectiveness of state government activities.

This aggregated information can be used to establish performance metrics for each individual activity engaged in by the state agencies.

Once these metrics have been established, state officials will be able to make a wide range of policy decisions to cut the cost of delivering these services while improving their quality. Some of these decisions would include state employee performance compensation, implementation of state employee telework policies and the related divestment of state capital assets (and related debt), privatization of services, and many more strategic allocations of resources.

The ground work we are establishing in the in the effort to increase transparency will not only give taxpayers insight into how their taxpayer dollars are being spent; it can also give policy makers the information they need to hold government accountable, implement new best practices to reduce the level of government spending and increase the quality of services provided.

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