US federal IT investment visualizations: Storyboards for citizens

Looking a lot like an updated version of Gapminder, the newly launched US Federal IT dashboard reminds us that the visualisation of information in the public domain can be a powerful mechanism to animate voters to hold government accountable and transparent.

For the record, this is not something our own ICT Agency or Central Bank will even remotely consider doing. Though the outrageous corruption in government flagged in the two COPE reports would make for some interesting visualisations, both ICTA and the CB, far from being thought-leaders in ICTs are sadly factories for irrelevant policies and practices underpinned by sycophancy and dishonesty.

Visualisations like this are like a storyboard for citizens and voters. For example, the animation on IT spending for example since 2001 demonstrates, during the two successive Bush regimes, how IT expenditure on defense sectors overwhelmed many others, including education. By 2010, even under Obama, total IT investments in the defense sector are greater than many other sectors combined.

Total IT Spending

What’s significant though is the year on year change in IT investment on education, that shows a marked increased under the Obama administration.
Change in IT spending

I’m sure progressive journalists and vigilant civil society will use websites such as this to ask questions of government’s on how and why they prioritise public spending on certain sectors, and certain projects, as opposed to others. Underpinned by enabling Right to Information legislation, websites such as the Federal IT dashboard provide a framework for citizens to be continually engaged in governance, a media to be constantly vigilant in the public interest and public officials to be always aware that their decisions are a matter of public record.

Even after war, Sri Lanka’s corruption, nepotism and miasmic governance shows no real signs of change. Obama’s administration shows how the political will to make government accountable finds expression in the use of technology to empower citizens. The most progressive our government gets is to talk about getting rid of pornography on the web getting rid of pornography on the web and getting women to record themselves getting raped.

C’est la vie.

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