Creating a Culture of OPEN Data
“Information is a valuable national asset that only increases in value as it is shared with the public. Open data drives innovation and economic growth and increases government transparency."
During my time at the White House, I worked on Obama’s Open Data executive order, which required that data generated by the government be made available to the public in machine-readable formats. In layman’s terms, the order required federal agencies to publish their non-confidential data in formats computers can easily process, such as JSON or XML. On January 14, 2019, when President Trump signed the OPEN Government Data Act, Obama’s policy became law. OPEN stands for Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary.
“A lot of ideas the government is beginning to adopt, like human centered design, open source code, and application programming interfaces (APIs) are accepted best practices in the private sector. We desperately need to modernize government services and bring them up to speed. Now that need is an imperative."
In addition to requiring agencies to publish data and metadata online, OPEN also mandates that all federal agencies appoint a Chief Data Officer (CDO) to help make the new directive a reality. Within the next three years, the Government Accountability Office will conduct a study to assess whether agencies have complied with these new requirements. Under the Foundations for Evidence Based-Policymaking Act that OPEN is part of, agencies will also be legally responsible for presenting evidence to support new policies, underscoring the need for reliable data for analysts and decision makers to consult.
“While the primary intent of the OPEN Government Data Act is making data available to the public, it will have a tremendous benefit within government agencies as well. As data is cataloged and published under the direction of CDOs, government staff inside and across agencies will have a much easier time acquiring the data they need."
Over the next three years, troves of data are going to be systematized and released, with the expectation that agencies will mine this data to make more informed decisions. Too many of the systems in place today essentially trap data by making it cumbersome to analyze and share.
“As I think about where we are headed, I am hopeful. The government hasn’t fully exploited the benefits of modern technology yet. Initiatives like OPEN are a giant step in the right direction."