Sunday, March 16, 2008

National Databases to Increase Government Efficiency

  1. The Consumer Product Safety Commission database of products. The Senate just passed a bill requiring this, but the House doesn't like the idea. Similarly, other relevant information on each product should be added to this database.
  2. A database on corporations. Contractor Misconduct is sort of a good start to this, but not quite. These databases should have all relevant information on a corporation, and should, of course, be linked to the CPSC's database, along with the contractor database. To reduce overhaul, companies should be required to input this information themselves, after registering on the website. If the corporation is lax on updating its page, it should be fined.
  3. A national database of all local police stations, recording all complaints on officer behavior and their official resolution. If you read Reddit or Digg, you've likely heard about The trouble is that none of these comments are official; they have to be taken with a major grain of salt. And, if you browse through it, you'll find that there's a lot of stupid shit on there already.
  4. All complaints to federal agencies, including complaints on the federal agency's effectiveness, should be made public. All complaints which an agency collects as part of its duty need to be made public along with their resolution. There needs to be an appeal process. Note this story on on a study the GAO on the FCC's handling of complaints on business practices.
  5. Obama recently revealed his earmarks. All Congress members need a profile connected to a database, and all earmarks need to be made public. This shouldn't be a choice.
  6. A federal database on hospitals: misconduct of doctors, any possible performance ratings, a place to register to complaints. All prices for all procedures should be made public. Again, these profiles would be updated by the individual hospital rather than government bureaucrats.
  7. Every government website should make all the complaints regarding its website functionality public as well. Thus, problems on the website (which I frequently find, but are rarely addressed) will be resolved quickly and efficiently if the agency wants to retain face. Comments should be votable by registered users.
  8. A government account for all US citizens, detailing all information the government has collected on you. Access to this data would require a search warrant, and if any agency requested your information, you should be immediately notified. Libertarians will hate me for this, but I believe that the government should allow citizens to verify their identities cleanly and easily. Ultimately this will allow people to surf their web with their identities, comments, and so on verified if they so chooose.
  9. All complaints/comments on government policy should be "votable" by those with verified identities a la Reddit/Digg. Thus, the complaints which gather the most interest will go to the top. Of course, all these things could also be sorted differently (by date, by most votes, by most viewed, by resolved, ect.) Plus, all complaints could be also be rated 1-5 stars by any web surfer. You could see what people with verified identities thought was the most important vrs. your average web surfer.

In fact, there's many more databases that could and should be compiled and made public, esp. in reference to government projects and their costs. These could be linked to each other to expose fishy connections and trends. Citizens could then see for themselves what business and government is doing.

While things like Wikipedia have made a good stride in linking together relevant information and greatly decreasing information asymmetries, Wikipedia can't link to information which is not publicly available. Plenty of the most juicy, important information for citizens is still hidden by the government.

As I've said often before, the first and most important function of government is to act as a bridge for information.

No comments: