On Tuesday the Center for Digital Government announced that Michigan.gov had won its annual “Best of the Web” award. You can see the state’s press release here.
The site has introduced a number of useful new features over the past year. If it weren’t for their recent addition of news feeds I probably would have missed this story, and quite a few others, and their efforts to improve accessibility, and unify public facing services are to be applauded. But the fact that they won the award is a sign of the poor state of governmental websites in the United States.
The improvements that the state website has been making should have been made several years ago. As they add features that the rest of the web embraced several years ago, the “open data” movement has taken off, but there’s no sign of trying to provide the core governmental data–information that would help citizens find new ways to interact with their government and participate in democracy–more accessibly.
Accessible, informative and useful government websites are a good thing (attractive, inviting ones would be nice) but it’s a shame that they can’t be part of a more general strategy designed to provide well-structured, useful, mashup-able data about all activities of government.