White House mandates open data, releases new tools

Thursday - 5/9/2013, 9:44am EDT

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The White House today finally released its long-awaited open data policy, requiring agencies to make information accessible through open standards.

Along with the policy, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order requiring, "that, going forward, data generated by the government be made available in open, machine-readable formats, while appropriately safeguarding privacy, confidentiality and security."

The memo is part of the broader Digital Government Strategy, which the Office of Management and Budget released just about a year ago.

The strategy called for OMB to issue the open data policy by November 2012.

Agencies will have to make sure all appropriate data is released to the public in machine readable formats, uses open formats and data standards, and creates common and extensible metadata for all new information and collection efforts.

OMB said the memo "establishes a framework to help institutionalize the principles of effective information management at each stage of the information's life cycle to promote interoperability and openness. Whether or not particular information can be made public, agencies can apply this framework to all information resources to promote efficiency and produce value. Specifically, this memorandum requires agencies to collect or create information in a way that supports downstream information processing and dissemination activities."

Along with the open data policy, OMB is updating several initiatives, including data.gov and releasing new open source data tools.

The new services on data.gov will help users improve how information is visualized, mapped and includes access to an Application Programming Interface (API) for developers.

OMB also announced the expansion of the Open Data Project, which now includes the release of open source tools on Github, which is a site that lets communities of developers collaboratively develop solutions.

"The Open Data Project can accelerate the adoption of open data practices by providing plug-and-play tools and best practices to help agencies improve the management and release of open data," the White House said in a release. "For example, one tool released today automatically converts simple spreadsheets and databases into APIs for easier consumption by developers. Anyone, from government agencies to private citizens to local governments and for-profit companies, can freely use and adapt these tools starting immediately."

"Information is a valuable national resource and a strategic asset to the federal government, its partners, and the public," the memo stated. "In order to ensure that the federal government is taking full advantage of its information resources, executive departments and agencies must manage information as an asset throughout its life cycle to promote openness and interoperability, and properly safeguard systems and information. Managing government information as an asset will increase operational efficiencies, reduce costs, improve services, support mission needs, safeguard personal information and increase public access to valuable government information."

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