Government Performance Online

Let’s use the internet to make New York State government work better for everyone. Many New York State agencies and programs have ill-defined and poorly explained missions, goals and objectives. It’s hard for the public, or the governor, to assess their performance or hold them accountable. That needs to change. Rapid improvements in Information Technology offer a powerful tool for illuminating what New York State government agencies are doing. New and evolving ways of displaying information on websites, including with visualization techniques like dashboards, allow huge amounts of information to be displayed concisely and powerfully.

The New York Governor’s Performance Initiative would use new websites to make state agencies and programs easier to assess and more publicly accountable. Initially, agencies will display basic information about their missions, goals and resources, and basic performance targets. As the Governor’s Performance Initiative evolves, it will also include benefit/cost measures and other more sophisticated measurements of agency performance. The result will be a real-time online report card that both helps government leaders keep agencies and programs on target, and holds them more accountable for delivering results. There is gigantic potential. The  federal IT dashboard has saved American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by offering sophisticated tracking of IT projects. NY State can take online performance tools like this and use them to improve the performance of state operations and capital projects.

The federal IT dashboard is successful because it is public. Public transparency and participation is fundamental to the long-term success and honesty of any government performance systems. Government managers want to look good and have big incentives to manipulate performance measurements. (How many people would give their own performance an “F”?)  The best performance measurement and management accountability systems make data clear and accessible to the public.

New York should be the national leader in government performance measurement.

Other states have taken the lead in public performance measurement programs, but none have come close to fully exploiting the potential of the internet to display information and reveal hidden truths. A New York Governor’s Performance Initiative can save New York taxpayers billions of dollars, improve service delivery and make New York a national leader in performance measurement. New York can learn from Maryland’s StateStat and Washington State’s GMAP programs. But we can vault past them by using websites and online data visualization to show the public and political leaders how agencies are performing.