Open Data

Senate backs open gov bill

Shutterstock image: underlying data. 

The Senate's late spate of action Dec. 10 included the approval of a bill to make federal agency data open and machine readable by default. The move passed by unanimous consent.

The Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act, introduced by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), would codify President Barack Obama's 2013 executive order to require federal agencies to publish their information to Data.gov in a non-proprietary, machine-readable format.

The bill would also standardize open data definitions, map federal data sets and ensure that CIOs have the authority to improve the quality of datasets.

"Public information belongs to the public, and it's the government's job to make sure that data is available and easily accessible in today's ever-changing digital world," Schatz said in a statement.

"This bill would be Congress' sending a strong message to the executive branch that, even in a new administration," open government efforts and projects pushed during Obama's tenure will continue, said Hudson Hollister, executive director of the Data Coalition, told FCW.

The bill would have to pass the Senate again in the 115th Congress and gain the approval of the House quickly to have a chance of reaching President Obama's desk before the new administration takes office.

Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) and Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) sponsored a companion bill in the House, and Hollister said he expects them to lead the bill's re-introduction.

Hollister said support for the bill in the House was likely to grow after a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office reported that the bill's passage would not substantially impact the budget.

The bill's passage has received backing from a variety of tech companies, trade associations and interest groups. In May, 48 signatories -- including Amazon Web Services, R Street Institute, the Sunlight Foundation, the Project on Government Oversight and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Technology Engagement Center -- sent a letter of support to the House Oversight Committee.

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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