by Michael Nelson
Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) — Ellen Miller, the Sunlight Foundation’s executive director, touts an ideal vision for a world in which “all public information is available online.” Today’s world is, unfortunately, not yet that place.
That’s one of the conclusions from a Georgetown University briefing in which more than a dozen experts on three panels today talked with Capitol Hill staffers and Georgetown University students about Internet policy. Despite a 2009 executive order from President Barack Obama to bring more transparency to the sharing of government data, progress has been slow.
One panel on “The Internet, Poverty, and Jobs — Here and Abroad” shared success stories about how the Internet is helping the unemployed find jobs, get online training, and start small businesses. Still, many innovative services such as mobile money are developing faster in Africa than in the U.S. Likewise, Singapore, Mexico and other countries are innovating more rapidly in K-12 online education and digital textbooks. Too often regulations and culture — and a lack of competition to entrenched interests — are blocking progress.
The online privacy panel — former Congressman Rick Boucher of Virginia, Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill, Commerce Department General Counsel Cameron Kerry, and Microsoft’s Frank Torres — agreed it’s time for Congress to pass broad online privacy rules and give the FTC more authority to pursue companies that don’t abide by common industry privacy practices. Kerry said the administration intends to build on the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights released a year ago.
Ironically, during the conference, the White House released a policy memo requiring federal research agencies to make papers resulting from federally funded research available for free online within one year of publication.
(Michael Nelson is a senior technology analyst with Bloomberg Government. He organized the panel at Georgetown University, where he also teaches. To learn more about Bloomberg Government, visit BGOV.com.)