Saturday, April 12, 2014

'Let Me Google That For You' Inspires an Act of Congress

When I first read the headline “Let Me Google That For You” I immediately thought that Google was up to it again and had announced another tool that would allow me to do something using some newfangled technology. But, alas, it is something more near and dear to that topic we’ve been studying involving open government and our ability to access more documents using an already established technology – the Google search engine.

From what I can understand by reading the article, Congress is citing sources that say most of the government documents that are normally available through the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) can also be found using a simple Google search. Congress is preparing legislation to eliminate the NTIS with the potential to save $67 million annually. Although in the big picture of government expenditures, $67 million seems a small expenditure, it does appear to me to be a great idea. The more staggering item was that NTIS was actually selling the documents to the public yet they still needed to be subsidized through government appropriations.

It’s amazing to me that federal agencies were providing the documents to the NTIS but also making them publically available for free. Google is often the first place I go when I am looking for government documents, I find tax forms, federal, state and local regulation when I need them. I can go to the library and often find a host of government documents so it boggles the mind to think we are still paying for documents. This is where I think open government has been helpful but it seems someone forgot to tell the government.

1 comment:

  1. Paul - it is amazing that the NTIS was charging for providing the documents, and they still needed appropriated dollars to stay afloat. My speculation is that more people acquire these documents thru google searches than go to NTIS and shell out the money (who in their right mind would do that if they knew they could get it for free??). The NTIS sounds like another stovepiped agency trying to protect itself from extinction. BTW - I had never heard of the NTIS, I google the docs, and if the NTIS had come up in the search I may have encountered them, but again, I have never heard of them. Thanks for sharing!