Mike Klein, Micah Sifry and I just returned from a few days in Seattle and San Francisco — a trip well worth the range of discussions we had about Sunlight’s goals and how to achieve them. We had simulating meetings with Martin Collier at the Glaser Progress Foundation and with Bill Gates, Sr. in Seattle. And our conversations in San Francisco were chocked full of advice out of the thinking of some of the great pioneers in the technology world, namely Mitch Kapor, Craig Newmark, David Sifry to name just a few. Chris Nolan hosted a terrific evening event for us.
The longest conversation of the trip that we had was with Mitch Kapor at his Open Source Applications Foundation. Before the meeting we knew we were pretty much on the same wave length on the issue of transparency because at a conference a few years ago, Mitch talked about the issue:
Transparency is not a new concept to self-government. In fact it’s an essential component. Yet our government practices have become increasingly opaque. For example did you know the final draft of the Patriot Act was introduced simultaneously with the vote?
Do we see with who and when are Congresspersons and their staff are meeting? Are transcripts of lobbyists meeting with government officials made public? No, too often the real reasons for legislation, the real beneficiaries are obscured behind thicker doors. And in recent years, government information is increasingly less available in the name of security.
Our politics is not transparent and it needs to be. I am heartened by the community of bloggers who have begun to hold politicians and the big media which cover them more accountable.
So, yes, I think technology can help in the form of decentralized tools, greater transparency, and principle-based communities which use them. The challenges are to develop both the tools and the community practices in a synergistic way.
And that was the topic of our meeting — how to develop both the tools and community practices in a synergistic way. More to come on this and on other meetings.