in Houston, Texas
Today's featured video: Of the people, by the people, for the people -- and on the Internet
Tuesday, Apr 05, 2011, 11:37AM CST
By Jennifer Peebles
Lincoln, Tad and laptop
Seven score and a few extra years ago, Abraham Lincoln said our government was supposed to be of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Then why is it often so hard to find out what our government is up to?

One thing that would likely make it easier is a bill that was reintroduced in Congress yesterday, the Public Online Information Act, or POIA. A video from the Sunlight Foundation about POIA is today's featured video clip on the Texas Watchdog home page.

Some quick background from a blog post by Sunlight's Daniel Schuman:
 
Today Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) reintroduced the landmark Public Online Information Act. If enacted, POIA would bring the government into the 21st century by requiring the government to embrace the presumption that government-held information, already required to be public, must be available online. Data should be free from the shadows of obscurity and brought into the sunlight of the Internet.

The current way information is often made accessible in Washington is that you often must show up in person at a musty repository and photocopy information page by page -- or try your luck at freeing information through a FOIA request and endure countless (and possibly politicized) bureaucratic business days. The public demands better; it looks online for information.

Amid immediate concerns over government transparency projects losing funding, it is important to push for the sweeping, cultural shift that Washington desperately needs. That's why we continue to advocate for the information government produces to be available online, in user friendly formats, and available to the public at no cost.
 
When he mentions "immediate concerns over government transparency projects losing funding," Schuman is referring to the possible shutdown of federal government transparency sites like USASpending.gov and Data.gov, which will go down the drain because their funding is being killed off in the fiscal year 2011 budget bill.

We also want to point out that Tester is one of the co-sponsors of the Faster FOIA Act of 2011, along with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. That’s another good idea floating around up there on Capitol Hill.

Let’s hope both of these bills go somewhere this year.

You can read more about POIA on this site.

It’s your government. It’s your information. Why shouldn’t you be able to access it online?

 
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Spotted a good video clip? Shoot a note to jennifer@texaswatchdog.org.

Photo: Drawing of Lincoln and his son Tad surfing the Web on a Sony Vaio laptop. History tells us that when Matthew Brady took the photo on which this drawing was based, he said, "Man, I really need a new laptop." See the Library of Congress for more details.
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