OPEN GOVERNMENT -- Web-design firms bidding on a contract to revamp the official
stimulus-tracking site Recovery.gov face the challenge of building a
prototype that must comply with unpredictable content requirements,
according to procurement specialists and information access academics, reports Aliya Sternstein for Nextgov.com.

"There is a big question about how the front end of Recovery.gov
actually connects to a back-end reporting infrastructure," said Eric
Kansa, executive director of the information and service design program
at the University of California-Berkeley School of Information.

In October, agencies will be required to start transmitting reports
from stimulus fund recipients to Recovery.gov, which is maintained by
the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board. But the details of
what will go into those reports and the technologies that will collect
information have not been finalized.

A request for proposals for the Recovery.gov redesign obtained by Nextgov
acknowledges that Obama administration guidance on reporting
requirements will expand. "Flexibility will be required [of
contractors]. I think that's a good thing," Kansa said.

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The RFP tries to satisfy open government advocates by recognizing the public's preferences could change.

"Public expectations of openness and transparency, coupled with
explosive advances in technology and multichannel communications mean
that standards that may have fully met the public's expectations
yesterday, may fall well short tomorrow," the solicitation stated. "The
offeror shall provide the government a process to add functionality to
meet new paradigms, as they are defined."

Agencies, too, will have to be flexible in meeting the demands of
the new site, said Stan Soloway, president and chief executive officer
of the Professional Services Council, a contractor trade group. The
costs of changing the rules in the middle of the game are unknown, he
added.

"The unavoidable reality is that we are going to be changing
practices even as the stimulus work is going forward," Soloway said.
"The answer I don't have is [whether this] is a cost-effective way of
doing it."