Agencies get how-to on open data compliance

OMB clarifies how policies apply to federal contracts and IT acquisition strategy.

data door

Agencies are expected to deliver on several elements of President Barack Obama's executive order on open data by Nov. 1, including creation and publication of a list of data assets. To steer these efforts, the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy released guidance that gets into the weeds about how agencies can fulfill the directives and incorporate open data policy into everyday activities.

In an Aug. 16 blog post, Deputy Chief Technology Officer Nick Sinai and OMB Supervisory Policy Analyst Dominic Sale wrote, "Opening up a wide range of government data means more entrepreneurs and companies using those data to create tools that help Americans find the right health care provider, identify a college that provides good value, find a safe place to live, and much more. It also empowers decision makers within government, giving them access to more information to enable smarter, data-driven decisions."

The implementation guidance, published on the Project Open Data website, creates a framework for enlarging inventories data, enriching them with additional metadata, and making them public. The minimum requirement for the Nov. 1 deadline is a catalog of all datasets posted on Data.gov before Aug. 1 and metadata records for each asset. Agencies must also submit a schedule to OMB for publishing a catalog of all agency datasets down to the bureau and program level, with an eye to having these catalogs complete by Nov. 1, 2014.

Agencies are also expected to deliver plans on accepting public comment about their data. Any tool used to connect with the public should be linkable through an agency's data page. Further, each agency must develop and publish by Nov. 1 an overview of a data release policy, including information about any reasons that compel agencies to keep a particular dataset closed.

The newly published guidance includes some clarification on how open data policy applies to federal contracts and IT acquisition strategy. While contracts don't need to be rewritten to accommodate open data requirements, new contracts "must ensure that the government treats data as a valuable national asset, and structures any data-related deliverables to collect such data in formats that can be shared, regardless of whether a determination has been made as to whether the data should be made available to the public."

The demands of the policy are pointing IT procurement in a direction of systems "built to support interoperability and information accessibility." The policy document points out that "addressing these considerations early in the acquisition process will protect against the costly retrofitting that is often involved in retrieving data from legacy platform-dependent systems."

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