Governments are getting the hang of Web 2.0 a few years after the rest of us, and both the U.S. and U.K. authorities have just launched their own Data.gov Web sites in an effort to increase transparency. But in a studied comparison of the two efforts, the U.K.’s wins.
Over at Flowing Data they’ve taken a deep look at the two different efforts from the Old World and the New: Data.gov and Data.gov.uk. Both sites perform roughly the same purpose, which is to share several hundred datasets that were formerly not accessible to the public, thus giving an insight into matters like financial spending, and locations and lists of government services. The whole idea is that the mechanics of government are demystified and the population trusts its authorities slightly more.
The upshot of Flowing Data’s investigation is that while the U.S. effort is a little older, and thus should’ve had time to evolve more, the British Web site is more polished, honest and user-accessible. It delivers more data, and its design was influenced by the great Sir Tim Berners-Lee and an academic expert in artificial intelligence. And while the U.S. site doesn’t do much to show you who’s using its data for whatever interesting reasons, the U.K.’s site highlights this, and even encourages active dialog with its users.
Scanning through the list, it’s almost like a comparison between typical corporate Powerpoint presentation styles on either side of the Atlantic, which echo differences in management styles in the two nations. So what does this teach us about the direction Data.gov should go in? Mainly that the designers should beef up the ease of use of the service, and actually attempt to engage with the users.
But the bigger thing to note is that both sites could definitely improve what they’re offering. And then we may be able to truly believe the things governments say they’re doing, as well as build a better understanding of where all our tax dollars go.