Open Data

The future of open data in the Trump administration

Shutterstock image: data lines forming a sphere. 

Government transparency advocates expect Obama-era open data policies to continue, but would like to see agencies and Congress prioritize their expansion.

President and founder of the Center for Open Data Enterprise Joel Gurin told FCW at the Feb. 23 Tableau Government Summit that his organization has been working with agency members and "is working under the assumption that open data is really a bipartisan issue."

"Agency to agency, we expect a lot of the open data programs in place will continue… there's a lot of support within agencies" for expanded open data policies, he said.

In terms of where open data stands as a priority in the White House, Gurin said, "I think it's a little bit 'wait and see,'" in part because "I don't think anybody knows where [the Office of Science and Technology Policy] will be going."

However, Gurin did note that President Donald Trump's choice of Mick Mulvaney to head the Office of Management and Budget was reason for optimism. In his Senate confirmation hearing, Mulvaney sounded enthusiastic about open data initiatives.

Gurin said he was pleased to see the Obama administration prioritize open data, but stressed there is more progress to be made.

"It's not enough to make that data public," he said. "You have to make that data accessible, usable, understandable to a wide, wide range of potential data users."

Gurin said a "top priority" for the expansion of open data practices is getting Congress to pass the Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary Government Data Act, which would codify 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, introduced by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), has received significant backing from tech companies and interest groups, and passed the Senate -- but not the House -- before the close of the last session of Congress.

Gurin said he expects the bill to pass this time if it is reintroduced

While there has been consternation over the removal of certain datasets from government websites since Inauguration Day, Gurin cautioned against reading too much into it, and said he has not "seen any clear indication of moving to disrupt data collection."

"The fact that a data set is taken down from a website, it's not always been clear… whether that's temporary or permanent," he said. "Even if the data set is taken down from a website, that does not mean that the data set ceases to exist, and most of the data collections are protected by statute or by regulations."

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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