In a new piece for The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage Blog, Henry Farrell, a political science and international affairs professor at George Washington University, interviews Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO and founder of USAFacts.
In the interview, Farrell and Balmer discuss the importance of making government data open and usable for the public. Ballmer argues that opening government data alone is not enough to encourage evidence-based policymaking. Instead, the data should be made accessible, comprehensible, and usable by the public for transparency and accountability in the government to be achieved.
In response to a query from Farrell on “creating the necessary politics for people to understand the incomings and outgoings of government on an individual basis,” Ballmer says:
“The Constitution calls for a census and a State of the Union. Probably this came from some idea that we should tell the citizens what’s up. Those concepts could be modernized, and they have not been modernized. The SEC regulates business and makes them confirm that they are making credible representations of the truth. Legislators aren’t called to do that. I can’t tell what my congressperson knows or doesn’t know, except about the areas they choose to talk to me about.
“Government should have timely and good data to make decisions, legislators should be accountable for having read the data, and citizens should be able to go directly from data to action recommendations.”