The New Zealand government has published a standard on using RSS to publish "media releases and other event-related content authored by government agencies and intended for public consumption via outlets in various media." These news feeds are collected and made available on New Zealand's website. Here are some highlights:
- The standard calls for using RSS 1.0 and gives a NZ government specific module that adds to the Dublin Core so that government functions can be properly described. Utah's Government Information Locator Service, run by the State Library, provides a similar module for Utah State government and even provides a tool for creating the right metadata.
- The standard provides examples of what properly created RSS feeds ought to look like, but offers little help how to actually create the RSS feed.
- There is a procedure outlined for submitting your RSS feed to the eGovernment office for validation and inclusion in the central RSS aggregator. The central aggregator presents the news feeds on the NZ portal.
I, for one, applaud New Zealand's efforts in this area. Creating standards for things like this is the chief way that eGovernment offices and CIOs can provide for interoperability and help create an enterprise architecture that enables eGovernment. Ideally, such standards are created after a pilot stage where some experimentation and learning has gone on, but before too many people are intrenched in what they're doing.
RSS is an important step for governments to make. Utah has had a central calendar on its web site for years and its a great idea. Yet, because it was created before RSS was much heard of, the interface is proprietary. This has two huge drawbacks: agencies have to do something special, even manual, to insert events into the calendar. Once its in there, the data is useful for that application only and can't easily be repurposed. If the system were to be redone with RSS as its foundation, and the Governor's office, which has started using RSS for its news feeds, were to have agencies standardize how they create and disseminate news released and calendar events so that they automatically created RSS, the system would be more flexible and more widely used.