Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - By Kevin Donohue - No comments

State Integrity Investigation

An interesting, if somewhat disheartening, report recently came out, grading all 50 states on the degree to which they work to eliminate corruption.  The report is called the State Integrity Investigation, and it is a joint effort of the Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International, and Global Integrity.

The report evaluates state governments on the rigor of the systems that are in place to prevent the violation of public trust by state officials.  The evaluations were based on a variety of factors, such as transparency in budget procedures, the amount of power given to ethics committees in state legislature, etc.  The evaluations were generally not encouraging: no state earned a grade of ‘A,’ and 8 states actually received ‘F’s.  

While our work is primarily with municipal governments, there was one piece of the report that really stood out to us as relevant to what we’re trying to accomplish at SeeClickFix.  In outlining the steps needed to curb corruption, the report highlighted the importance for governments to be not just transparent, but transparent in a way that is comprehensible to the average citizen.  “Ed Bender, executive director of the National Institute on Money in State Politics, said that governments may seem transparent by making information available, but it is not always presented in a useable or digestible format. He said trying to compare data within a state – say, linking campaign donations to state contracts – can be nearly impossible, and is a huge barrier to transparency."

This is in part why we’re so committed to transparency and public data at SeeClickFix.  Our platform helps to make citizen concerns very understandable and actionable.  When a streetlight has been broken for months, the people who pass by the light are no longer the only ones who are aware of it.  Everyone who has access to the internet can look at the map of their area on SeeClickFix and plainly see that the responsible government should fix the light.  SeeClickFix prevents municipalities from disguising citizen concerns in arcane and bureaucratic forms that almost no one ever sees, and that absolutely no one understands.

As the State Integrity Investigation clearly reveals, there is definitely room for improvement in making government more transparent and accessible.  We’re happy that SeeClickFix can be a part of the solution to this urgent problem.

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