If you’re reading this, the following statistic from a recent Pew Internet report applies to you:
Fully 82% of internet users (representing 61% of all American adults) looked for information or completed a transaction on a government website in the previous twelve months.
It probably doesn’t surprise you that increasingly Americans are relying on the internet for access to government information. More and more this is taking the form of social media tools like blogs, social networking sites, and services like Twitter or text messaging. While the social nature of this type of engagement makes the tone more informal, it does not indicate that the engagement is trivial.
In the same Pew Internet report, three-quarters (79%) agree with the statement that having the ability to follow and communicate online with government using social media tools “helps people be more informed about what the government is doing,” while 74% agree that it “makes government agencies and officials more accessible.”
In today’s digital age, the National Archives and Records Administration must fulfill its mission not only in the research rooms, regional archives, and presidential libraries, but also in cyberspace. Through our website and creative use of social media tools, we can provide access to the records that document the actions of our government. This enables greater transparency, a crucial pillar of open government.
What does it mean for the National Archives to be transparent?
It is clear this is a continually evolving concept. We can’t accept what we’ve done in the past to suffice in this digital age with ever improving technological capabilities.
Technological advances can help us provide access to our records, educational events, and advisory committee meetings. Our live programming needs to be available streaming online, and archived in order to meet the 24 x7 needs of our citizenry.
The White House is using Facebook and White House Live to stream video and take questions and comments in real time. This allows everyone to have a seat at the table. Important conversations are no longer limited by space and time.
I envision our website to work in tandem with social media tools to provide online platforms that encourage citizen engagement and access to government information. We’ve got a lot of work to do for us to provide more. It requires changing our culture to meet the new expectations for a transparent and open government.
In what ways do you think the National Archives could be more transparent?
Archivist of the United States (AOTUS)
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