White House Announces Video.gov
by Gavin Baker, 9/10/2010
At the Gov 2.0 Summit this week, White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer Andrew McLaughlin announced plans to build a government-wide Video.gov platform — and set a goal that such videos would garner millions of views over the next year.
The federal government has vast archives of films of all types: everything from educational videos about refrigeration, bulldozer safety, and strip searches to fashion shows and The Bob Hope Christmas Special. But many of these government films have yet to be digitized. Of those that have been digitized, only a portion have yet been posted online for easy access by the public.
Into that breach has stepped "rogue archivist" Carl Malamud, whose nonprofit Public.Resource.Org has pioneered making available what the government won't. Unlike Wikileaks, Public Resource posts information that isn't classified, but rather public domain government documents. Malamud does it without government funds, assisted by a small group of volunteers. His "FedFlix" have attracted nearly 4 million views on YouTube.
McLaughlin said he was both inspired and shamed by Malamud's efforts and announced the government's response:
This is the challenge for the next year: a Video.gov platform that will connect all of the disparate video archives of the federal government departments and agencies, as well as easy access to feeds and an inspiring presentation of live video feeds from across the government. ... In a year's time, if the federal government has not put up a Video.gov site that is capable of delivering or getting at least three times as many views as whatever you [Malamud] digitize over the course of the next year, we will call that a failure.
In addition to opening the archives, this initiative should also seek ways to provide more video of current activities, such as public hearings. In this interconnected age, live video online offers new possibilities to expand participation: for instance, by enabling citizens to ask questions of their public officials in real time, whether they're in Washington or Wyoming.