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Friday, January 24, 2014

Ind. Gov't. - "The not so transparency government portal"

Here are some quotes from a long story by Eileen Oaks in the Kokomo Perspective:

The state’s transparency portal for local government, called “Gateway” has helped the Howard County Auditor’s Office achieve better efficiency and accuracy this year than in previous years. However, the transparency portal accessible to citizens, which is meant to provide clarity into their budgeting and accounts, is not user friendly, and lacks the desired accessibility to the public.

The transparency portal has made improvements in convenience since last year, but it still isn’t self explanatory. Mike Claytor, the Democratic nominee for State Auditor in 2014 said, “The state transparency portal has a ton of good information on it, but you have to be an expert in state finances to find the information. It should be something where if anyone wanted to use the information they could find it.”

The state portal, which is accessible to the public through the Indiana government’s website, has won national awards in design and openness since 2004, however, as Claytor explained, “If you want to know the state’s overall budget or how much the state is spending in total, those are really easy to get. But, if you’re looking for specific information, that’s a lot more difficult.”

Claytor used the state’s contract with IBM to demonstrate the website’s shortcomings. He explained that if a user wanted to research state contracts, they can go to the contract portion of the portal and find the contract very easily. However, if a person wanted to find out how much the state paid IBM specifically, it is a more difficult process because the tabs are not clear and the state doesn’t provide enough website guidance.

The state expenditure database is organized into different compartments on the website, but the public will find that it is hard to figure out exactly where to find the information for which they are looking.

Claytor said that in order to find information on a government project a person needs to know the fiscal year it was approved, the agency it came from, the fund which it was drawn from, the specific account in the fund, and the fund type.

The Indiana portal is complicated, because there are numerous tabs that could be misinterpreted. Users of the site, as Claytor explained, are expected to know which tab will lead them to their results, without instructions.

“We are suggesting that the state have a simple set of instructions,” said Claytor. “Right now, it explains some of the basics, but not how to find the information ... that kind of help would really be beneficial if someone was trying to find something.”

ILB: These are good suggestions and applicable to many other state projects, all of which seem to have been designed by government insiders with no input from the citizens they are designed to serve.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 24, 2014 08:50 AM
Posted to Indiana Government