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Friday, February 11, 2005

GRASSROOTS GOVERNMENT: Ridenour Offers Two Ideas for Criminal Cases

Amy Ridenour's National Center Blog is taking up the challenge and running with it this morning, offering two excellent suggestions for applying Grassroots Government concepts to the difficult field of criminal law and processes. Click on the headline above to go to Amy's full posting. After you do that, be sure and let her know what you think. Tell me, too, ok?

In the meantime, millions of Americans have already experienced something akin to Grassroots Government in the past decade, as local and state authorities have moved many official services to web sites. The federal government has its FirstGov web site, which is Uncle Sam's official web portal and the IRS is doing a booming business processing tax returns people file electronically.

But is "E-Government" the same thing as Grassroots Government? Not necessarily. I believe the former is a necessary precursor to the latter because, whereas the one provides electronic access to government services, the other provides avenues of participation in the process of governing. Big difference, right?

That said, I am curious what kinds of experiences readers have had in dealing with various levels of government via official web sites. Living in Maryland, I have had satisfactory occasions, for example, to download tax forms and information from the State Comptroller's office, and have searched the site for information on such exotic topics as how to get my motorcycle driver license renewed after a 15-year hiatus.

At the federal level, downloading databases from numerous federal agencies is a common occurrence here, as part of the Computer-Assisted Research and Reporting (CARR) program I oversee here in the Center for Media and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation. The CARR program trains MSM folks and bloggers how to apply the tools of statistical analyses to public policy databases in search of news that would otherwise not be reported.

In fact, it was my experience finding databases on government web sites that first got me thinking about how the Internet in general and specifically the Blogosphere can be used to involve citizens directly in their government's daily activities.

So, what about you? Let the discussion flower!