Federal Agencies must make government information open and machine readable, according to an executive order issued by the president last week.

Promoting openness and interoperability in government “promotes the delivery of efficient and effective services to the public, and contributes to economic growth,” the order stated.  Under the new Open Data Policy, agencies will manage government information as an asset throughout its life cycle and “ensure that data are released to the public in ways that make the data easy to find, accessible, and usable.”

Under the executive order, within 90 days the Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy, the Controller of the Office of Federal Financial Management, the Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO), and the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) will identify measures necessary to support integrating the Open Data Policy into the federal acquisition and grant processes. 

Also within 90 days, the Chief Performance Officer (CPO) will establish a Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal to tack policy implementation.  The CPO will help agencies set performance goals with metrics and milestones to monitor progress.  Within 180 days, agencies will have to report their progress on implementation of CAP goals.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent a memorandum to agency heads establishing guidance for implementing the Open Data Policy.  The guidance identifies the policy requirements to collect or create information, build information systems that support interoperability and accessibility, manage data and release practices, and identify related privacy and confidentiality measures.

The memo defines “open data” as publicly available data that is “structured in a way that enables the data to be fully discoverable and usable by end users.”  Under the guidance, open data is: public; assessable in open formats; fully described with documentation; reusable (available under open license); complete, with as much detail allowed by law; timely; and supportable after release.

The executive order directs OMB, within 30 days, to publish an “open online repository of tools, best practices, and schemes” to help agencies implement the Open Data Policy.  The OMB guidance describes “Project Open Data” to meet this requirement.  The data repository established through Project Open Data will include definitions, codes, checklists, case studies, and other information and tools that enable “collaboration across the Federal Government, in partnership with public developers, as applicable.” 

Other actions announced by the administration related to the principles of the Open Data Policy can be found on the CIO website.