performance in four key areas:

  • Outcome Reporting, Scorecarding and Enhanced Transparency: States should adopt and apply these strategies as a standard part of the government process.
  • Econometric Forecasting -- Statewide and Localized: Using econometric modeling, states can figure out the impact of policy choices and address the demand for services.
  • Centralized Grants Management: States should develop a core competency responsible for handling grant applications and tracking funding received.
  • Web-Based Reporting and Tracking Options: States should create a way to gather and integrate data from various sources into a central database that provides reports, analysis and channels for citizen interaction.

By using these strategies as a springboard, Howard said, states can move beyond ARRA reporting compliance to provide long-term value. But states cannot successfully adopt this model, he added, without the right tools.

Wanted: Resources

The push for technology coincides with the call for transparency, but states need to know how to utilize the tools and resources at hand. According to the NASCAT survey, 64 percent of the states did not use technology to manage and report on grants received.

Was the technology not available or did the people tracking the grants not know how to use it? Either way, the number underscores the underuse of enabling technology, which could be a problem considering the pivotal role technology plays in transparency.

For example, governments can use business intelligence software to reduce the time it takes to gather, analyze and deliver presently scattered data. Users can view that public information online. Layered with GIS technologies, the data can be used to create maps, charts and other applications, as seen with innovative contests like Apps for Democracy.

But other than money and technology, building an open platform also requires dedicated people who know what they're doing. Most states have created ARRA reporting offices, but Howard sees this as a possibility for public-private partnerships, where a private vendor could step in and handle the reporting duties so public employees can focus on advancing the state's goals and programs.

"Gathering data and getting it out on the Web for reporting is a hard process," Howard said. "Most states are putting significant resources to actually just doing reporting."

Now that ARRA has opened the door to numerous opportunities and influenced some states to disclose more data, state governments won't be able to simply stop once the stimulus funding season ends.

"The genie's out of the bottle," Howard said. "One year and a half later when ARRA funding is done, they're not going to be able to say 'OK, we're not reporting anymore.'"

 

Russell Nichols  |  Staff Writer