Two Laws On Expertise That Make Government Dumber

Beth Noveck in Forbes: “With the announcement of Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn last week comes the prospect of new tech products that can help us visualize more than ever before about what we know and can do. But the buzz about what this might mean for our ability to find a job in the 21st century (and for privacy), obscures a tantalizing possibility for improving government.

Imagine if the Department of Health and Human Services needed to craft a new policy on hospitals. With better tools for automating the identification of expertise from our calendar, email, and document data (Microsoft), our education history and credentials (LinkedIn) skills acquired from training (Lynda), it might become possible to match the demand for know how about healthcare to the supply of those people who have worked in the sector, have degrees in public health, or who have demonstrated passion and know how evident from their volunteer experience.

The technological possibility of matching people to public opportunities to participate in the life of our democracy in ways that relate to our competencies and interests is impeded, however, by two decades-old statutes that prohibit the federal government from taking advantage of the possibilities of technology to tap into the expertise of the American people to solve our hardest problems.

The Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972 (FACA) and the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 (PRA) entrench the committee and consultation practices of an era before the Internet. They make it illegal for wider networks of more diverse people with innovative ideas from convening to help solve public problems and need to be updated for the 21st century….(More)”