The Internet makes access to public information easier than ever before - as long as government posts it. Today, it takes little effort and money for agencies to put information online.
We take notice when national, state or local government makes useful data available on websites. Recently, the state attorney general's office launched New York Open Government, an expansion of the office's Project Sunlight website. The new site aims to provide the public with up-to-date information about campaign contributions, lobbying and state contracts.
The site, www.nyopengovernment.com, allows users to search across databases and display results on one screen. Users can tailor searches with multiple criteria, and the site offers options to export data. The attorney general says data will be updated frequently, and features will encourage users to share information from the database through social media programs.
The website aims to make government more transparent and accountable. In a news release, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman pointed out at least 20 current or former elected members of the legislative and executive branches of state government have either been accused or convicted of crimes in the last decade.
"New York Open Government will help the public keep an eye on what their government is doing in order to deter corruption and increase confidence in the public sector," Schneiderman said in the news release.
The site includes an advanced search function with categories such as campaign contributions, campaign expenses, retained lobbyists, lobbying clients, charities, state contracts and member items. In one example of a search, viewers can see all of the member-item grants obtained by state Sen. Hugh T. Farley, R-Niskayuna. We encourage people to review the site.
As we've said in the past, local government should take advantage of the Internet and post as much public information as possible. This would serve citizens better and improve government transparency.