Ed Felten and some co-authors have written a paper discussing a more modern approach to open government. They suggest that the best approach is that rather than government agencies focusing on building Web sites that provide access to government data, they should focus on providing the data itself in an open format so that it can be utilized by anyone.
Here’s the meat of the proposal:
Rather than struggling, as it currently does, to design sites that meet each end-user need, it should focus on creating a simple, reliable and publicly accessible infrastructure that “exposes” the underlying data. Private actors, either nonprofit or commercial, are better suited to deliver government information to citizens and can constantly create and reshape the tools individuals use to find and leverage public data. The best way to ensure that the government allows private parties to compete on equal terms in the provision of government data is to require that federal websites themselves use the same open systems for accessing the underlying data as they make available to the public at large.
Sounds like a great idea to me. I love the idea of forcing government agencies to eat their own dog food in order to propel this kind of approach.