Sunshine Week: All Hands on Deck for Open Data

This article was originally posted on whitehouse.gov

This post is part of a Sunshine Week series on WhiteHouse.gov. Sunshine Week is a national initiative to celebrate and focus on government transparency and open government.

On Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of open.ny.gov, a new data transparency website that features valuable information about New York State economic development, recreation, and public services. The announcement is an important contribution to the growing “all hands on deck” effort to make government data accessible as fuel for innovation and economic growth.

Unleashing “Open Data”—data freely available in formats that are easy to use in new and innovative ways, while rigorously protecting privacy—has been a priority for the Obama Administration since the beginning. As the President has said, “information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset.”

In addition to catalyzing entrepreneurship, innovation, scientific discovery, and other public benefits, Open Data also helps ensure a transparent, accountable, and open government—goals being celebrated across the Nation this week as part of Sunshine Week.

A great example of an Open Data resource that has led to concrete benefits for citizens and the economy is weather data/the Global Positioning System. Since being made freely available, beginning decades ago, entrepreneurs and innovators have used these information sources to create navigation systems, weather newscasts and warning systems, location-based apps, precision farming tools, and much more.

In recent years, the Administration’s Open Data Initiatives have helped make thousands of other government data resources in health and medicineeducationenergypublic safetyglobal development, and finance freely available in machine-readable formats through the platform Data.gov. Entrepreneurs and innovators use these public information resources to develop a vast range of new products, services, and businesses while journalists, civil society, and the public use them to gain new insights into markets, the government, and our democracy.

We’re continuing to make progress in the Open Data arena. Under the leadership of the Presidential Innovation Fellows, the Administration recently launched Alpha.Data.gov as an experimental first step in reimagining the next iteration of Data.gov—which will soon feature enhanced search capabilities that make it easier to find datasets held anywhere in the Federal Government.

At the same time, we’re also working to make it easier for people to securely access their own data and use innovative applications to crunch those data for a growing array of useful purposes. For example, the Administration’s “MyData” initiatives are already helping Americans get easy and secure access to their own private healtheducation, and energy data—such as medical records, transcripts, and utility bills—in standard consumer- and computer-friendly formats, from wherever those data currently live.

In order for these efforts to succeed, making data machine-readable is an absolutely necessary step. But the work doesn’t end there. Data must also be made available in smart ways that are useful to end-users: consumers, businesses, entrepreneurs, and innovators. That’s where the “all hands on deck” approach comes in.

We are collaborating closely with civil society, non-profit organizations, entrepreneurs, and other innovators to ensure that Federal Open Data resources are as accessible and useful as possible for Americans and people around the world.  We have put out calls for entrepreneurs and citizen solvers to use Open Data to create new solutions, products, and services that solve tough problems, create jobs, and benefit Americans, through the nearly 250 incentive prizes and challenges offered to date by more than 50 Federal departments and agencies on Challenge.gov. We also encourage regional and community-based Open Data efforts like open.ny.gov which empower citizens with information resources that are immediately relevant and useful to them.

By continuing to work together and put all hands on deck, we can keep Open Data flowing for the benefit of all Americans.

Happy Sunshine Week!

Nick Sinai is the  Deputy US Chief Technology Officer at OSTP

Your Federal Tax Receipt