Along with the new year comes the hope that the Kentucky General Assembly and other governing bodies around the state will make decisions that can be aligned with the defense of Kentuckian’s personal freedoms.
This year, I would like to see Kentucky’s leaders at all levels (city councils, counties, school districts, state government, etc…) address how user friendly public information is. The availability of information is the most commonly discussed aspect of government transparency. Making the information available is certainly the first step in transparency but equally important is how easily the information can be used and understood. It is important that the information a Kentuckian seeks be provided in a common, effective, and efficient format.
For example, in a 2009 open records request project, the Bluegrass Institute specifically requested electronic copies of financial records from cities and school districts in Kentucky. Far too many of the responses stated that the city or school district did not maintain electronic or digital copies of their financial records. That is simply unacceptable in this era. Instead, these municipalities sent paper copies of their financial records. In some cases, these paper copies were dot matrix printer copies sent in boxes!
Financial records for cities, counties, and school districts must be made available as excel spreadsheets, PDF’s, or other electronic formats. Moving these municipalities and school systems toward electronic/digital records will allow for:
- Ease of transfer to concerned citizens, city council members, and other invested stakeholders.
- Information within the documents to be more easily browsed using search functions on computers as opposed to looking through hundreds of printed pages.
- Far less expense to taxpayers.
In 2012, lets take the next step in the state’s transparency efforts and make all public information available in a digital format that is cheaper, more efficient, and more useful.