We’re big fans of open government at Internet Thinking, but I don’t think we’d advise any of our clients to go as far as they have in open.alabama.gov.
When it’s slow and a newspaper is looking for a story, nothing is easier than to beat-up on a government for how much it spent on the latest overseas trips or renovating ministers’ offices.
Yet when you go to open.alabama.gov they lay those facts and figures out for you, and more. Looks to be asking for trouble from my point of view as a public relations professional. But perhaps not. Perhaps when the figures are publicly available, no-one cares. Sometimes the best place to hide is right out in the open – where everyone can see and no-one thinks to look.
Although if this last theory is true, then openness in government could actually bring less scrutiny rather than more.
Probably the most substantial transparency on this site is overall state spending. The State Check Book “contains a searchable database of unaudited expenditures by category, payee and agency. The searchable database allows searching and drill down capability. You can view the results online, or download the data as a report or Excel spreadsheet. The searchable database is updated nightly Tuesday through Saturday.”
You can also track budget against actuals. Will this stop the government practice of re-announcing projects next budget that you didn’t get around to spending the budgeted money on last year?
This site is what the Internet is meant to be all about. It also shows why it drains the blood from the face of media advisors.