Open Data

White House pushes agency heads to expand open data

Shutterstock image (by wavebreakmedia): doors opening to data streams.

Two White House offices jointly released new guidance on July 14 instructing agencies to expand their data transparency activities and incorporate public feedback.

The memo for the heads of executive departments and agencies, issued by the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, builds on the Obama administration's open-data initiatives, including OMB's 2009 Open Government Directive, which requires agencies to incorporate data transparency into their central activities and update their open-government plans every two years.

The new guidance, co-signed by U.S. CIO Tony Scott and U.S. CTO Megan Smith, provides agencies with best practices to increase transparency, accountability, collaboration and public engagement. A WhiteHouse.gov blog post states that the goal is to make the 2016 round of plans "the most expansive and strongest yet."

The guidance states that the plans should detail measurable steps the agencies will take to make information publicly available. It also separates best practices into "new" and "ongoing" initiatives.

For new initiatives, the memo specifies that 2016 plans should include agency accomplishments since 2014, progress reports on open-data initiatives, plans to expand open data for the next two years, expected completion dates for agency projects and measureable, tangible steps the agency will take to make its work transparent.

The guidance also asks agencies to describe the steps they will take to participate in digital governance plans and their participation in Analytics.USA.gov. (According to the Pulse dashboard developed by 18F, 49 percent of federal government domains are now using the analytics platform.)

For the ongoing initiatives, the memo asks for status updates on agency participation in current open-data pushes, such as the 2014 Digital Accountability and Transparency Act.

On the public engagement side, the memo asks agencies to describe their plans to proactively address frequently asked questions and publish agency data -- including spending information -- online for public consumption. Additionally, it promotes innovative ways for agencies to solicit public feedback and participation, such as prizes, challenges and crowdsourcing.

The deadline for agencies to submit their plans on their open-government webpages is Sept. 15.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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