Government Transparency
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Law and Politics

Government Transparency

The Steve Ballmer Project

WHAT IT IS

  • How our government collects and spends money is critically important.

  • When information is accessible, the public is able to ensure government decisions are fair and efficient for their community and country.

  • USAFacts: Steve Ballmer’s project to help inform and educate Americans on government activity. [The New York Times]

  • USAFacts wants to provide free, nonpartisan, factual information on “the state of the nation”, or what is occurring on the federal, state, and local levels of government. [Wired]

  • The site breaks down information into four easy to navigate categories: (1) Finances; (2) Population; (3) Metrics; (4) Reports.

  • Ballmer used the Constitution to help frame the four categories. [NPR]

WHY IT MATTERS

 

Citizen empowerment begins here. [The New York Times]

 

Not only will this project help inform voters, it also shows the public the extent to which free speech and access to government data is protected by the Constitution. 

GREAT IDEA

Apolitical

Ballmer and team received data from 70 different U.S. government sources and not politically-based organizations. [The New York Times]

 

 

Democracy

"Democracy dies in darkness" -The Washington Post

 

Citizens need to be informed about the operations of the government, so they can have an informed say (through voting) on how the government is conducted.

 

 

Innovation

The user-friendly site looks nothing like any current bureaucratic or startup attempting to organize and display government data. [Wired]

 

This makes the site user-friendly to ordinary people. USAFacts credits the design firm, Artefact, for the look and layout of the site.

BE CAREFUL

Incomplete

There could be a problem in data provided by USAFacts, due to omitted or redacted data in government public records. Keeping data up to date is also difficult for the government. This leaves many questions unanswered.

 

 

Free Speech

Some believe we need to be cautious about placing too much public trust placed in an individual citizen. Steve Ballmer has the right to misrepresent the facts posted on the site.

 

 

Already there

Taxpayers have always been able to access and analyze government data, through sites like USASpending and data.gov.

 

WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • In the site’s first 48 hours, USAFacts had 2 million page views. [Business Insider]

  • Over $10 million has been spent by Ballmer on the three-year-old project. [The New York Times]

  • Ballmer has declared that he will keep this project going no matter the cost. [Business Insider]

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • Read more about how the Freedom of Information Act was recently used when the Trump administration tried to block public access to White House visitor logs.

  • Will citizens to use this information or not?

  • How do facts inform different opinions?

  • What lobbying efforts exist to prevent negative information from being reported?

Key Vocabulary