Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has embarked on a new mission: Using tech to solve the problem of government transparency.
On Tuesday, Ballmer and a team of economists, professors, and professionals launched USAFacts.org—a nonprofit, nonpartisan effort to give Americans easier access to public government records. This includes everything from spending on law enforcement, to tax revenue paid by corporations, to how much money is brought in from parking tickets, to the total number of government employees (more than 23 million, for the record)—all accessible through easy-to-navigate infographics.
Ballmer invested more than $10 million into the venture, according to the New York Times.
"We rely exclusively on publicly available government data sources," according to the website. "We don't make judgments or prescribe specific policies. Whether government money is spent wisely or not, whether our quality of life is improving or getting worse - that's for you to decide."
Data sources include the most current information from more than 70 government agencies. Ballmer's team began documenting the processes used to obtain, store, and present the US government's revenue, expenditures, and metrics data. Once this documentation is complete, Ballmer's team intends to use a public accounting firm to assess the information and ensure that it is accurate.
USAFacts also offers an annual report, a summary report, and a "10-K", which is modeled on the document public companies submit annually to the SEC for transparency and accountability to their investors, the website states.
"We hope to spur serious, reasoned, and informed debate on the purpose and functions of government. Such debate is vital to our democracy," the website states. "We hope that USAFacts will make a modest contribution toward building consensus and finding solutions."
The site will continue to be updated with new data as it is released by government agencies, and will inform viewers which release of data the site is using from each source. The site also notes that the database will expand into different areas, including more detailed state and local information, in the future.
USAFacts is an example of how technology can be used to make information more easily available to the general population. Access to accurate, timely data can help leaders at the local, state, and federal levels, and even in enterprises, make better-informed decisions. It can also help businesses more clearly understand how government investments and policies will affect their future.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
1. On Tuesday, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer launched USAFacts.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan website that gives the public easier access to public government spending records.
2. USAFacts is meant to help federal, state, and local leaders make better, more data-informed decisions.
3. The site will continue to be updated as new government data is made available.
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Alison DeNisco Rayome has nothing to disclose. She does not hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.