Many state and local government agencies seem to be stuck in a time warp when it comes to accessing public information on the Internet, according to national and statewide surveys of government transparency. The Sunshine Week 2009 survey found that Oklahoma posted online information in just 10 of the 20 categories. Among the categories where surveyors came up empty were teacher certifications, school bus inspections, consumer complaints and personal financial disclosures of elected officials. Texas was the only state in the survey that provided information in all 20 categories. New Jersey was next with 18. Mississippi had the least available online, with just four categories available. "This study shows that, while a lot of government information is available online, many states lag in providing important information that people care about,” said David Cuillier, Freedom of Information Committee chairman for the Society of Professional Journalists. Oklahoma did have online information available on campaign finance filings, school testing results, audit reports and day care inspection reports, transportation contracts, environmental violations, business registrations and discipline actions against doctors and attorneys. The state maintains a Web site called Open Books, which has state payroll and expenditure information from state agencies. The site is at www.ok.gov/okaa.
Government surveyOklahoma surveyors also looked at city, county and school district Web sites across the state. They looked for records such as meeting agendas and minutes; jail rosters; property records; budget information; arrest reports and fire incidents. Many times, state and local government agencies had a Web site, but the information was missing, outdated or hard to find. In some cases, such as with the Canadian County sheriff, the Web site was inoperable. In Oklahoma County, jail inmate information was available, but "the interface is clunky and unresponsive at times,” a surveyor wrote. Joey Senat, an associate professor of journalism at Oklahoma State University, said local governments can no longer hide behind lack of technology as an excuse for not putting information online. "I don’t know of anyone still using a typewriter,” said Senat, who organized the Oklahoma Sunshine Week surveys. "All of this information is being created electronically, which is the first big step to getting it online.” Senat said the mindset needs to change among both public officials and the public. "We need to expect our public officials to learn how to provide us access online,” Senat said. "Taxpayers already pay for the records; putting it online certainly seems to be a minimal cost. There are enough counties and cities and school districts who are already doing it to show that it is doable.”
ONLINE"ï¿½Documents Read the survey and the results from the survey. Newsok.com