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Friday, February 03, 2006

How Hard Can It Be To Bring Congress Into the Internet Age of Transparency, Accountability and Immediacy?

Every time I mention my belief that all bills should be posted on the Internet for some period of time before they are voted on, somebody on Capitol Hill claims it would be too difficult, too time-consuming, too costly, or too something else.

But I hear from others, including the following in an unsolicited email from a federal information technology expert:

"Mark, reading your post about Congressional Transparency ... I am moved to say that the technology to have real-time visibility and tracking of measures working their way through Congress has been available for at least 10 years, including the ability to date-, time-, and source-stamp every change.

"With the advent recent of XML, it has become even easier. Furthermore, it can be done without dragging a single new cable though any Congressional office, operated with the required security and assurance of non-repudiation, and probably executed within a matter of months.

"So there is no - that is, zero - technical impediment to doing what you propose. Whether the Congress has the wherewithal to acquire and implement such a system is, however, another question entirely."

This individual requested that I not publish his name because of the nature of his position. I've heard similar assessments from folks in the private sector, too.

So, I am curious what those of you out there who know these things far better than I think about the question. Just how difficult from an information technology and management perspective would it be to bring Congress into the Internet age?

Let me know what you think via comments or email.

Also, anybody for organizing a Blogger Task Force to Cyberize Congress?

And thanks to Mary Katharine Ham for her lengthy post today and her hat tip in the direction of Tapscott's Copy Desk for pushing these issues. She also has some news from Rep. Steve King, R-IA, in his efforts to move this issue forward among his colleagues.