Technology provides ever-growing opportunities for government transparency.
Local government agencies should seize upon every opportunity to harness inexpensive digital tools in furthering open government.
As national Sunshine Week draws to a close, we call upon Northwest Indiana government agencies to consider two new approaches to transparency: live-streaming public meetings on social media and satisfying more public records request in a digital format.
People familiar with Facebook already might be aware of a feature known as Facebook Live.
The feature allows for live and recorded video to be posted on social media sites.
It's the perfect tool for broadcasting public meetings on city, town and county social media pages, bringing government proceedings directly to constituents whose schedules may no allow attending public meetings in person.
The Lake County Council already is exploring live-streaming its public meetings and could vote on the matter as early as next month.
It costs virtually nothing. Any smartphone or mobile tablet can be set up on a nearby table to capture video of the meetings.
In live-streaming mode, the video goes live to a social media feed where more people can be engaged in the process of government.
When the meeting is over, the video can then be posted to the respective government body's social media site where the public can access it for further review.
This process is a technological no-brainer for openness in government.
Nearly all government records are — or should be — stored electronically.
Municipal or county expense reports, budgets, spending line items, spreadsheets, databases, emails and meeting minutes all must be typed into a computer at some point, meaning they're stored digitally.
When members of the press or public at-large request public records, Region local government must resolve to offer the information in digital format.
More information can be transferred with fewer resources when it's stored onto a disc, thumb drive or deposited on a server.
For example, consider a Freedom of Information Act request for a year’s worth of city council expense reports. These could number in the thousands of pages.
Countless reams of paper could be saved, as well as man hours for copying the information, if the information were provided on computer disc or drive.
Reasonable public records requests should not cause undue expense for citizens or the government agencies of record. Satisfying public records requests in a digital format is a cheap method for furthering transparency.