Open Government in Action

When someone uses Google to search, it’s our job to provide them with answers.  We’ve come a long way in developing search technology that delivers the most relevant results for our users, but there are still some answers that are difficult to find and provide.

This became painfully clear during the health care debate last year.  In the space of a few weeks, we had a sharp increase in search queries about the health care bill or a specific provision of the legislation.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t provide the best information to our users simply because a lot of congressional information isn’t readily available in a digital format.

Congress and members of Congress share information in a lot of modern ways through Twitter, Facebook, and on the web, but some congressional data sharing processes are older than Congress itself, as groups like the Sunlight Foundation have pointed out.  

Last week, Karen Haas, the Clerk for the House of Representatives, changed the game dramatically.  She led an effort to update the Clerk’s legislative activities page so that it now includes a huge amount of browsable and searchable information.  The new features include detailed summaries of daily floor action, what bills were debated and introduced each day (with links to the full text of the bill) and a detailed summary of every vote.  

In addition, each “house floor proceedings” page now includes archived video from the House floor and a detailed XML file for each day’s activity so that web developers and others can use and share this information.  

The House of Representatives has demonstrated great leadership on this project.  We look forward to using this congressional data to improve Google Search now and in the future as the congressional commitment to open government expands.