W3C eGov: Jeffrey C. Griffith on “Beyond Transparency: New Standards for Legislative Information Systems”

Note: These are rough notes from the W3C Workshop on eGovernment and the Web.  It is being held in Washington DC on June 18th-19th.

A legislative information systems are the systems that are designed by the legislative bodies to make their systems available to the public and themselves.

Who makes them?  This is tough.  There is no CEO of Congress or Parliament.  Before THOMAS there were 7 stove piped LIS systems.

Everyone uses LIS systems.  People are using the Web to find out more information about politics and their politicians.

One of the challenges is that legislative documents can be very cryptic and complex.  There are complex procedures.  There are readings without readings.  Sometimes yes means no and no means yes.

Gingrich authorized the LC to put up the THOMAS system.   The initial system was there but weak.  The public loved it.  Bills were available to the public at the same time they were open to members.

Staff wanted more.   The liked some of the features of the old legacy systems.

There were some additional standards that had to be met.  The documents needed to be accurate.  The systems needed to point to the right documents.  What is timeliness?  Hours? Same Day? Next Day?  Things should be complete.  Everything that is relevant and useful should be linked.  The document should be clear and explained.   There is also context.

A comparative study was done between the US Congress and the European Parliament.  There needs to be better integration of related information/documents.  There is some integrated data like CRS summary or CBO budget estimates.

What’s exciting is when the public sector gets involved.  There are things like OpenCongress.org  There is information on the bill but also links to blogs talking about it.

We need to start filling in the gaps.  We need technologists who are familiar with the legislative process who can talk with Congress when they’re aware.

There are too many impediments within the institutions so public sector use of the data will be important.

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