Some of my colleagues here at CITP have written about the importance of open data formats for promoting government transparency and achieving government accountability. Another leading thinker in this area is my friend Jerry Brito, a George Mason University scholar who contributed a post here at Freedom to Tinker last year. Jerry wrote one of the first papers on the importance of mashups using government data. Now, Jerry and a few collaborators have put his ideas into action by building a site called Stimulus Watch that will facilitate crowd-sourced analysis of the hundreds of billions of dollars of deficit spending that President Obama has made a centerpiece of his economic agenda.
Jerry and his collaborators parsed a report containing more than 10,000 “shovel ready” spending proposals from the nation’s mayors. Many of these proposals will likely be funded if Congress approves Obama’s spending bill. Using the site, ordinary Americans across the country can review the proposals in their own metropolitan areas and provide feedback on which proposals deserve the highest priority. As the site grows in popularity, it may prove extremely valuable for federal officials deciding where to allocate money. And if there are turkeys like the “Bridge to Nowhere” among the mayors’ requests, the site will allow citizens to quickly identify and publicize these proposals and perhaps shame government officials into canceling them.