By Daniel Menefee
A mockup of a redesigned Maryland General Assembly website left most members of the Joint Committee on Transparency and Open Government entirely unimpressed.
Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery County, said the site offered little in the way to promote civic engagement.
“The outright rejection of open source applications is concerning,” Mizeur told Director of Legislative Services Karl Aro, whose information systems staff was responsible for the new design. “We’re trying to update these sites to make them more ‘crowd source’ friendly.” Open source applications are available for free online and can be programmed and improved by anyone.
Mizuer acknowledged the redesign improves the way information is organized, but is merely an “upgrade based on the old way of doing business.”
She referred Aro and other members of the committee to www.nationalpiggybank.org, which uses existing social media to increase civic engagement.
“What we want this website to do is go beyond the paper-based system,” Mizuer said. “All we’re doing is transferring our paper-based system into this very confusing catalog on our website. Technology has gone beyond this. It’s about engaging people in what we’re doing and having full applications for them to follow and give input and advice.”
After the meeting Aro defended the website.
“I think the idea is to make it easier for people to find what they want, and all the information is there,” Aro said. “It is a redesign to facilitate navigation.”