Ten companies have pledged support for the open identity initiative to provide greater access to government sites and resources. Streamlining access will make it easier for the general public to access government resources and help to fulfill the vision President Obama laid out on his first full day in office with the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government.
Americans in general are increasingly using the Internet as a primary source of information. Sites like Facebook and Twitter that didn't even exist a few years ago are almost indispensible now. Twitter has become such an influential resource that maintenance was postponed during the chaos following the Iranian election to ensure the service remained available.
According to comScore, traffic to the WhiteHouse.gov web site is up 88 percent from a year ago. The Senate.gov site has experienced a 93 percent boost and the House.gov site is up 73 percent. Those are impressive growth numbers which may at least partly reflect the demographic that supported Barack Obama's victory in the election.
Those numbers might be significantly higher if accessing the sites was easier. You might think that there should be some uniformity and integration between government agencies and resources. If you think that, you haven't tried accessing them. Each agency and site seems to have its own format and conventions and they all require separate registrations and credentials.
Accessing government information and resources should not be such an administrative headache for users and privacy advocates (and tinfoil-hat anti-government paranoid users) object to the requirement to share so much data with the various agencies in order to gain access to information that should be freely available.
Privacy concerns aside, it is a cumbersome burden to have to create registered user profiles for each individual agency or site and then to try and remember the credentials next time you want to access that resource. The OpenID program will enable users to leverage other common credentials such as Yahoo, Paypal, or Google to access information without having to create new registered logins for each resource.
This is only a pilot program, but I am confident that it will prove a success and ultimately be expanded. The world has moved on to Web 2.0 while the government is still languishing with an archaic architecture with inadequate security.
President Obama ran on a platform of change and part of that change includes Blackberry mobile devices, Apple Macbook computers, distributing the weekly Presidential address as a podcast and on Youtube, and communicating with the masses via email, Facebook, and Twitter. It is only fitting that President Obama also bring access to government resources into the Internet age.
Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice, and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com.