On Saturday, the White House released its Open Government Dashboard. It features a big chart with 29 agencies on it measured by four attributes. I suspect that the technology behind this dashboard is likely an excel file, alongside staffers or interns checking each agency website for compliance. It’s a start of something– but a chart does not a dashboard make.
Here in Washington DC, amidst a couple feet of snow (with more on the way), Mayor Fenty released Track, a real way for citizens to watch their government’s performance. Both substance wise and technically, it out-atheletes the White House’s Open Government dashboard.
A uniform interface for every agency allows visitors to see in-depth statistics about the agency. Per-agency, context specific performance indicators, and whether or not they’re being met are there. How context-specific? On the Department of Transportation’s dashboard, we can see that 97.1% of reported potholes are filled within 48 hours. That 55% of sidewalks are in good or excellent condition, and that the stat for “Cost Per Mile of Street Repaving” is N/A, giving the agency a little warning flag.
Budgets aren’t a problem either. With it, you can see each agency’s budget over time, how they’re allocating their resources, and what their budget vs. actuals are. I know, for instance, that the DC Office of the CTO spends nearly four million dollars a year on its service desk, and nearly two million on its network operations center.
You can see website traffic stats for each agency too. On February 6th, for instance, the DOT website got 22,226 visits up from the average of about 2,000 per day. That’s a good idea of how many people checked in with the Department of Transportation to see if the roads were clear or when their roads were going to get plowed from the weekend’s snow storm.
That isn’t to say that their work is done: the district has some obvious next steps: make each agency’s page machine readable– give us the power to parse the data that makes up these pages. All it takes is a JSON or XML representation of the data that’s making up the page as it stands, now.
Another thing they could add is the ability for the public to participate in a public forum with each agency. Electronic information requests, like FOIA requests, or the ability to have a public dialogue with the Department of Public Schools about why 49% is the right milestone for “% of elementary students proficient in reading” seems fairly obvious.
But the foundation has been laid. And what’s interesting here is– the foundation was laid for Washington, DC to do this by it’s former CTO Vivek Kundra, who is now at the White House. This could be an interesting preview of what’s to come from the White House in a few years.
It isn’t often that I get to gush about online accountability. But DC’s newest CTO Bryan Sivak has done a great job pushing the ball forward. And if you don’t think so, now you can check his agency’s performance indicators. Let’s hope the White House follows their lead.