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What feds can learn from the global open data effort

Shutterstock image: data lines forming a sphere.

The Data Accountability and Transparency Act was signed into law a little more than two months ago, setting the stage for a single, machine-readable standard for financial data -- and for publication of that data online. But many countries have been using XBRL format for government data as a national standard for years, and that expertise could be put to use by federal agencies working to implement the Data Act.

At a Data Transparency Coalition breakfast July 29 in Washington, D.C., open data leaders from around the world shared their stories and offered their advice.

  • Frans Hietbrink, Tax and Customs Administration, The Netherlands: "Start thinking about ways to make it easier for the software developers, for them to adopt and comply with the standards."

    The Netherlands began working on open data standards 10 years ago -- on a voluntarily basis at first, according to Hietbrink. The program was met with great success as it evolved to work more closely with web and software developers and civil society groups. Eventually, the group behind the effort asked the government, "We know it works, now can you make it mandatory?"
  • Marcela Rozo, World Bank: "Adopt a global open standard, and make sure you put together enough standards for linkage of data so that users can follow the money."

    Rozo has been a driving force in the Open Contracting Partnership through the World Bank, an effort to promote the disclosure and transparency of public contracting data and increase engagement of people with contracting data through a global open standard. The partnership is planning to have a beta version ready by August and release version 1.0 by November, meant to be a starting point for contracting standards worldwide.
  • Bruno de Sousa Simoes, National Treasury, Brazil: "Don't believe what you hear, ask for a prototype. Examine the impact on both sides, and adopt open standards."

    De Sousa Simoes works on development of the Brazilian Public Sector Accounting and Fiscal Information System, or SICONFI Project, which aims to use XBRL format for government reporting. In Brazil, he said, the key to success was having SICONFI be mandatory and having penalties for non-compliance.

About the Author

Colby Hochmuth is a former staff writer for FCW.

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