Maureen Beach, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered remarks today at the first Congressional Facebook Developers Hackathon, which he co-hosted with Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“The Republican Leader and I may debate vigorously on many issues, but one area where we strongly agree is on making Congress more transparent and accessible. First, Congress took steps to open up the Capitol building so citizens can meet with their Representatives and see the home of their legislature. In the same way, Congress is now taking steps to update how it connects with the American people online.
“Through social media platforms, Members of Congress are able to interact with our constituents to keep them informed and stay informed ourselves so we can better serve them. Over the past two years, both Democrats and Republicans have held contests in our caucuses to encourage Members to engage with social media. In the Democratic Caucus this year, Members made more than 57,000 new connections on our Facebook and YouTube pages and on our Twitter feeds.
“Perhaps the most important use for social media and the internet in government is to improve transparency. President Obama deserves a lot of credit, I believe, for launching data.gov in 2009, which has seen over 250,000 data sets from the executive branch placed online. Another promising initiative is wethepeople.gov, where citizens can directly petition the White House online.
“For Congress, there is still a lot of work to be done, and we have a duty to make the legislative process as open and accessible as possible. One thing we could do is make thomas.gov – where people go to research legislation from current and previous Congresses – easier to use, and accessible by social media. Imagine if a bill in Congress could tweet its own status.
“The data available on thomas.gov should be expanded and made easily accessible by third party systems. Once this happens, developers, like many of you here today, could use legislative data in innovative ways. This will usher in new public-private partnerships that will empower new entrepreneurs who will, in turn, yield benefits to the public sector.
“One successful example is how cities have made public transit data accessible so developers can use it in apps and websites. The end result has been commuters saving time everyday and seeing more punctual trains and buses as a result of the transparency. Legislative data is far more complex, but the same principles apply. If we make the information available, I am confident that smart people like you will use it in inventive ways.
"Another area ripe for transformation is the way we correspond with our constituents. Social networks and new web technologies present exciting opportunities to involve the public in the legislative process. The limitations only extend as far as your creativity and imagination.
“We welcome the advice and the assistance of industry leaders like Facebook as well as individuals who bring new ideas to the table on how we can better connect the American people to their government.