14 January 2009

People often see me as “the tech guy.”  Thing is, I don’t even really like computers innately.  It is just that sometimes they allow for some pretty cool stuff to happen.  Things like instant communication between people continents apart or creative applications like photo editings and video creation.

With a hat tip to Rachel, I must say that I love this idea: a Congressional API. Now, before my non-technical readers leave, API stands for application programming interface.  This means that APIs are the things that allow people to write applications for Facebook and your iPhone.

Basically this means enterprising poli-techies can create websites that take roll-call vote information and make it user friendly with lots of different ways to dissect it, whether it is by elected official, state, date, vote, you name it. The truly interesting part about this is that it should enable greater government transparency because it lowers the barrier of entry for a great number of people.

Apparently, this is becoming something of a popular idea, since Sunlight Labs is having a competition to create a mashup using their collection of government related APIs for the most user friendly website.  Sunlight Labs is a group that describes itself as a “pilot project to prototype tech ideas to improve government transparency and political influence disclosure.”  I’ll be interested to see what comes out of this competition, if we can combine private and public efforts to open up our government.

De Tocqueville said that citizens in a democracy get the government they deserve.  Hopefully these tools will help our citizenry become more involved and get the better government we all desire.