E-Government


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E-Government Act Background and Details

Last Update: 01-Mar-2006


Search Standards

The deadlines for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to implement the requirements of the E-Government Act of 2002 arrived in December 2005.

ALA’s concern is primarily focused on Section 207(d), “Categorizing of Information.” An Interagency Committee on Government Information was required to submit (by December 2004) recommendations on:

  • the adoption of standards, which are open to the maximum extent feasible, to enable the organization and categorization of Government information in a way that is searchable electronically, including by searchable identifiers; and in ways that are interoperable across agencies;
  • the definition of categories of Government information which should be classified under the standards; and
  • determining priorities and developing schedules for the initial implementation of the standards by agencies.

The ICGI submitted its report* last year, recommending that OMB adopt the ISO Z39.50 international standard for interoperable search take action to assure that future search technology procured by Federal agencies is compliant with this standard.

In September, the OMB and the General Services Administration (GSA) put out a Request for Information (RFI) http://www.fbo.gov/servlet/Documents/R/1282831 to “identify and promote the most cost-effective means to search for, identify, locate, retrieve, and share information, and assess the net performance difference (including cost-benefits) of assigning metadata and/or a controlled vocabulary to various types of information versus not doing so.” It asks, “does current search technology perform to a sufficiently high level to make an added investment in metadata tagging unnecessary in terms of cost and benefit?”
GSA’s response analysis can be read at http://tinyurl.com/9ljc6

 

*ICGI Report, Recommendations on the Categorization of Government Information
December 16, 2004 (37 pgs) PDF version Word doc

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Categorizing of Information

On December 16, 2005, the Office of Management and Budget issued a Memorandum (M-06-02) on "Improving Public Access to and Dissemination of Government Information and Using the Federal Enterprise Architecture Data Reference Model."
http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/memoranda/fy2006/m06-02.pdf

This Memorandum is intended to meet OMB's obligations under Section 207(d). According to OMB, “This memorandum identifies procedures to organize and categorize information and make it searchable across agencies to improve public access and dissemination (section I), discusses using the Federal Enterprise Architecture Data Reference Model (DRM) (section II), and reminds agencies of the breadth of their existing responsibilities primarily related to information access and dissemination, including under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. ch. 35) and the E-Government Act of 2002 (Pub.L. No.107-347).”

It identifies “three new requirements” in the area of “Organizing and Categorizing Government Information and Making it Searchable Across Agencies to Improve Public Access and Dissemination.” Agencies must now:

  1. organize and categorize their information intended for public access, make it searchable across agencies, and describe how they use “formal information models” to assist their dissemination activities;
  2. review the performance and results of their information dissemination programs and describe the review in their Information Resources Management (IRM) Strategic Plans; and
  3. publish their IRM Strategic Plans on their public websites.

In regard to A. above, the Memo outlines procedures to “cost-effectively” fulfill this requirement:

  1. When disseminating information to the public-at-large, publish your information directly to the Internet. This procedure exposes information to freely available and other search functions and adequately organizes and categorizes your information.
  2. When interchanging data among specific identifiable groups or disseminating significant information dissemination products, advance preparation, such as using formal information models, may be necessary to ensure effective interchange or dissemination.

The Memo states that this policy “does not prescribe any new or specific thresholds requiring advance preparation of information or what form such preparation must take. Agencies should continue to meet existing requirements, ensure appropriate consultation with users, and consider the significance of the information dissemination product or data interchange to the agency mission and the level of public interest. As significance increases, so too may the need for advance preparation.”

It notes that “ Specific identifiable groups, also known as user groups and “communities of interest,” can include any combination of Federal agencies, State, local, and tribal governments, industry, scientific community, academia, and specific interested members of the general public.” [Italics added.]

An agency’s IRM Strategic Plan is “the agency's IT vision or roadmap that will align its information resources with its business strategies and investment decisions. As an example, the IRM Strategic Plan might include the mission of the agency, key business processes, IT challenges, and guiding principles.” http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/fedreg/a130notice.html

It is unclear how this meets the requirements of the statute to determine “priorities and developing schedules for the initial implementation of the standards by agencies.”

The Washington Office will be working with the ALA Committee on Legislation’s Subcommittee on Government Information and with GODORT on the issues raised by the Memorandum and other concerns with the implementation of the E-Government Act. We will also be working with the other library associations and other groups in Washington on these issues.

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