White House says agencies slowly meeting open data milestones

Tuesday - 12/10/2013, 11:08am EST

Many agencies have created new groups to address key provisions in the open data executive order and policy put out by the White House seven months ago.

The Office of Management and Budget said in a new blog post that more than 15 agencies now have data working groups "to improve coordination around data management, data security and protection and data release efforts."

The policy and EO didn't specifically require the creation of these groups, agencies likely see it as a way to comply with requirement to strengthen data management and release practices.

"While there is still much more work to do, we are excited to see the great progress being made by federal agencies to unleash the power of open data," stated Nick Sinai, the White House's deputy chief technology officer, and Haley Van Dyck, a senior advisor to the federal chief information officer.

Sinai and Van Dyck co-authored the blog post.

OMB highlights several accomplishments, including the more than a dozen agencies that launched "agency.gov/data" pages to make it easier for find and use federal information. The White House also said "many" agencies continue to release datasets to Data.gov.

The open data policy required every agency to meet the "/data" website as well as several other milestones such as releasing a data inventory within six months — OMB extended the deadline by one month because of the three-week government shutdown — of the release of the policy.

But progress has been far from consistent across the government.

The Sunlight Foundation highlighted the limited progress made against the open data policy milestones in a recent blog post.

The foundation said the Interior Department deserved extra special kudos for increasing the amount of data it releases by a factor of six.

It also said the departments of Agriculture, Homeland Security and Treasury dropped the ball by making "relatively small numbers of data sets available through Data.gov and even fewer documented in their public data listings."

OMB's update on agency progress around open data comes as it also released version 2 of its National Open Data Action Plan. In it, the administration introduced 23 new or expanded commitments to open government to add to the growing number of requirements.

In the blog post, OMB offered agency-specific examples of the policy's implementation.

For instance, the Energy Department released several new application programming interfaces (APIs) to let developers access data and tools for areas such as solar energy resource finder or the utility rate database.

The Education Department launched "ED Data Inventory" page to include K-12 school performance data, demographics and information about colleges, such as enrollments and graduation rates.

"Here at the Office of Science and Technology Policy and OMB, we are also working to help agencies adopt the administration's open data policy to unlock the potential of government data," Sinai and Van Dyck wrote. "We have made additional resources available to help federal agencies make data open and available in machine-readable form, including guidance to agencies about how to inventory and publish their data assets, as well as free code, software tools, and case studies that any agency can use or add to, are available at the Project Open Data website."

OMB's implementation guidance details seven other steps agencies must take after Nov. 30, including submitting an updated data inventory quarterly in the JSON format to the OMB MAX website.

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