Open Government Initiative Blog

  • Using Data to Transform Policing in New Orleans

    Fifteen year old Operation Spark student Grace Clark helps New Orleans Police Chief Michael Harrison write his first line of code: nopd.showRecords(1000) (Photo credit: Tyler Gamble/New Orleans Police Department)

    The power of data to transform our society for the better is incredible.  One of the areas to use data for immediate impact is in policing. Recently, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing provided recommendations on how to best use the power of data to improve policing, including better use of data and technology to build community trust and reduce inappropriate interactions with residents.

    On May 21, the President announced the launch of the Police Data Initiative, as a follow-up to this Task Force. Under this program, 24 jurisdictions nationwide have committed to open up datasets about policing, and to participate in a peer-learning network to share data innovations across law enforcement agencies. One of these jurisdictions is the City of New Orleans.

    Last week, New Orleans held an event to preview three datasets on policing they plan to open to the general public (use of force, 911 calls for service with arrival times included, and field interview cards).  At the event, city officials worked with a group of young coders to build apps powered by this newly unlocked data.

  • Green Button Initiative Makes Headway with Electric Industry and Consumers

    The United States has long been an international leader in promoting technology and innovation policy while providing consumers the rights and access to the resources they need to derive economic value and make informed decisions. This administration has worked toward these goals through the liberalization of Federal data, and in 2013, President Obama signed an executive order to commit the government to releasing open, machine-readable data. This has enabled public access to tens of thousands of government datasets, which are directly available for download at

    In that spirit, the White House, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology launched the Green Button Initiative in 2012, providing American businesses and families with simple and secure access to their energy consumption data in a standardized format, an effort that has since grown significantly in size and sophistication.

  • Help Us Strengthen Open Government

    Since the United States joined the Open Government Partnership in 2011, U.S. agencies have been working alongside civil society to develop and implement commitments to increase transparency, improve participation, and curb corruption. From opening up Federal spending data to make it easier to see how taxpayer dollars are spent, to the We the People online petition site where the public can propose U.S. policy changes, to strengthening efforts to deny safe haven in the U.S. to corrupt individuals, our efforts to advance open government are making an impact.

    Consistent with the commitment to the Open Government Partnership, later this year the United States plans to publish a third Open Government National Action Plan (NAP) including new and expanded open government initiatives to pursue in the next two years. The first U.S. NAP was published in 2011 and the second NAP — which is still being implemented through the end of 2015 — was published in 2013.

    These plans are a true team effort — governments work alongside civil society in all 65 OGP countries to develop and implement the efforts within the plans. Over the next several months, we encourage you to contribute your ideas and work with us to build an ambitious third NAP!

  • Citizen Cartographers Unite: Report from the First White House Mapathon

    Last week, citizen cartographers joined the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Office of Digital Strategy for the first-ever White House Mapathon.

    In just three hours, more than 80 mappers edited more than 400 roads and 1,000 buildings in OpenStreetMap, and collected power outage info on 152 power utilities. The mapathon focused on three main projects: humanitarian mapping efforts, mapping U.S. parks, and power outage mapping. 

    Benson Wilder describes the Nepal mapping project in the wake of the April 2015 earthquake

    Benson Wilder, of the State Department’s Humanitarian Information Unit, describes the Nepal mapping project in the wake of the April 2015 earthquake.

  • It Is Rocket Science! NASA Releases Abundance of Free Code

    This week, NASA released its second annual Software Catalog, a giant compendium of over 1,000 programs available for free to industry, government agencies, and the general public. The Software Catalog contains the actual advanced engineering and aeronautics codes NASA engineers purpose-built for their daily work.

    The Software Catalog stemmed from the October 28, 2011 Presidential Memorandum on accelerating the commercialization of Federal research in support of high-growth businesses, in which the President challenged all Federal agencies to find new ways to increase the efficiency and economic impact of their technology transfer activities.

    In response to this call to action, NASA developed a five-year plan for accelerating technology transfer with several high-level objectives, one of which was to locate, collect, and make accessible all of the agency’s software. The result was the Software Catalog, a comprehensive offering of all of NASA’s releasable software, including programs designated as open-source, codes-restricted, and government-use. The first edition of the Software Catalog, published in May 2014, has been downloaded over 100,000 times, and the Software Catalog website ( has received millions of visitors. With the release of the second edition of the Software Catalog, NASA remains the first and only agency to offer this comprehensive a collection of free software tools, and serves as an example for others to follow.

  • Two Years of Transformative Open Data for Public Good

    Two years ago, President Obama signed an Executive Order (E.O.) to improve how our government shares information for the benefit of the American people. The E.O. meant that for the first time in history, Federal government data was required to be open by default with common standards and machine-readable formats. As a result, government information is now more easily discoverable with the necessary safeguards to prevent release of sensitive and personally identifiable information.

    Data is a vital national resource, empowering Americans to fuel entrepreneurship, innovation, scientific discovery, and economic growth throughout all 50 states. Through implementation of the Open Data Policy and U.S. Open Data Action Plan, today’s Federal government serves as an engine to expand economic growth and opportunity for all Americans through the release of government data. Moreover, since information about government operations is more readily available, this data helps create a more efficient and transparent government.