Landmark Steps to Liberate Open Data

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Today, as he heads to Austin, Texas, for a Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour, President Obama signed an Executive Order directing historic steps to make government-held data more accessible to the public and to entrepreneurs and others as fuel for innovation and economic growth. The Executive Order declares that information is a valuable resource and strategic asset for the Nation. We couldn’t agree more.

Under the terms of the Executive Order and a new Open Data Policy released today by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget, all newly generated government data will be required to be made available in open, machine-readable formats, greatly enhancing their accessibility and usefulness, while ensuring privacy and security.

During his visit to Austin, President Obama will meet with technology entrepreneurs who are hiring workers with cutting-edge skills and creating the tools and products that will drive America’s long term economic growth.  This includes technology entrepreneurs utilizing government data to grow their company.  Under the President’s Open Data Executive Order, more data will be made available allowing these types of entrepreneurs and companies to take advantage of this information, fueling economic growth in communities across the Nation.

Since the earliest days of this Administration, the Federal Government has taken unprecedented steps to make government data more available to citizens, companies, and innovators.  Through the Data.gov platform, which launched in 2009, users can access government datasets about a wide array of topics. Thousands of datasets have already been added to Data.gov and more than half-a-million data downloads have occurred in the last year alone, and we’re working to make the site even better.

As part of the Administration’s Digital Government Strategy and Open Data Initiatives in health, energy, education, public safety, finance, and global development, agencies have been hard at work unlocking valuable data from the vaults of government.  The Health Data Initiative, for instance, has opened growing amounts of health-related information in open, machine-readable formats. Hundreds of companies and nonprofits have used these data to develop new products and services that are helping millions of Americans and creating jobs of the future in the process.

Just yesterday, as part of the Administration’s work to make our health care system more affordable and accountable, the Department of Health and Human Services released new data on fees that hospitals charge, a major step in creating greater price transparency.   

We’ve also collaborated with the private and nonprofit sectors through a series of White House datajams and datapaloozas to help spark activity by entrepreneurs and innovators to use open data to build new products, services, and innovations. As a result, there are private companies using open data to fight credit card fraud; consumers using open data to save on their energy bills; families leveraging open data to compare health care options; and a host of new apps and tools in areas ranging from public safety, to financial planning, to education, and more.

Much progress has been made. But many more government datasets are still hard to find or are locked-up in unusable formats. By requiring that government agencies provide newly generated government data in machine-readable formats like CSV, XML, and JSON and, when appropriate, expose data via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), the new Executive Order and Policy will further accelerate the liberation of government data.

We are very excited about the path ahead and can’t wait to see what new ideas and yet-to-be-imagined innovations can be unlocked by increased access to open data.


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Todd Park is the U.S. Chief Technology Officer. Steve VanRoekel is the U.S. Chief Information Officer and Administrator
Related Topics: Economy, Innovations, Technology, Texas
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