Recovery.gov: Small Steps toward Transparency, Interactivity, and Trust

Recovery.gov: Small Steps toward Transparency, Interactivity, and Trust

Franz Foltz (Rochester Institute of Technology, USA), Rudy Pugliese (Rochester Institute of Technology, USA) and Paul Ferber (Rochester Institute of Technology, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-018-0.ch011
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Abstract

President Barak Obama’s directive on transparency and open government, and the creation of the Website Recovery.gov, would seem to be concrete examples of the predictions of cyber advocates that computer-mediated communication and the Internet will change the nature of democracy and make citizens more participatory. A major goal is to try to increase the public’s trust in their government. An examination of Recovery.gov, however, reveals it to be not very interactive and less than fully transparent. While it may be praised for providing information, it falls far short of the vision of cyber advocates. The state sites associated with Recovery.gov do a slightly better job by putting a personal face to the oversight of the recovery. Overall, the sites tend to provide only a limited view into the workings of the government and have a long way to go before they increase public trust in the government.
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Background

The claim that computer-mediated communications (CMC) can be used to create greater public involvement in government actually pre-dates the widespread use of the Internet, and there is a broad range in the scope of predictions as to what computer-mediated communication can or will accomplish. Some have claimed that CMC would allow citizens to interact meaningfully with each other and elected officials in a manner unencumbered by traditional political structures (Grossman, 1995). Others wonder if politicians are really willing to live in glass houses of honesty (Schudson & Haas, 2008).

Studies suggest that the creation of a transparent and participative Website could increase trust and satisfaction. Trust and use of government Websites have been strongly related at the local level (Tolbert & Mossberger, 2006). Citizen use of government Websites is significantly related with satisfaction with e-government (Welch, Hinnant, & Moon, 2005). However, dissatisfaction with interactivity of government Websites has been reported, and those reporting greater concern regarding government responsiveness were less satisfied (Welch, Hinnant, & Moon, 2005). Consequently, these sites have to be made more responsive by increasing the levels of interactivity. Two-way interaction has been suggested as an important means of demonstrating government accountability (Roberts, 2002). Thus, transparency and interactivity are connected concepts for increasing public trust.

Recovery.gov provides an opportunity to evaluate what progress, if any, the federal government has made toward the goals of transparency, interactivity, and accountability. An understanding of Recovery.gov begins with President Obama’s directive. President Obama defines his understanding of transparency and open government.

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