On January 14, 2019, the Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act was signed into law by the President. Included in the ‘Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (H.R.4174)’ as Title II, the proposal will require federal agencies to publish any “non-sensitive” information in a “machine-readable” format using standardized, non-proprietary formats – file types that a phone or laptop can process.
“The government-wide law will transform the way the government collects, publishes, and uses non-sensitive public information,” said Sarah Joy Hays, acting executive director of the Data Coalition, a membership-based trade association that worked on Title II. “The OPEN Government Data Act…sets a presumption that all government information should be open data by default: machine-readable and freely-reusable. Our Coalition celebrates the congressional and Executive Branch allies, as well as the open data advocates, who made this possible.”
The OPEN Government Data Act also requires agencies to maintain, and publish, a comprehensive data inventory of all data assets. The data inventory will help agencies and open data advocates identify key government information resources and transform them from documents and stored databases into open data. It also mandates that agencies appoint a chief data officer at each office to handle the process.
In a statement, The Center for Data Innovation said:
“The OPEN Government Data Act is a major bipartisan victory for open data. It is now the law of the land that government data should be freely available and accessible to everyone by default.
Open data has enormous value for businesses, journalists, academics, civil society groups, and even other government agencies. These organizations use the vast supply of data the federal government makes freely available in open formats online to develop innovative products and services, make important business decisions, conduct research, and ensure accountability and oversight in government.
The Center for Data Innovation has long called for comprehensive federal legislation to define the publication of open data as a permanent responsibility of the U.S. government. The OPEN Government Data Act will ensure that the federal government releases valuable data sets, follows best practices in data management, and commits to making data available to the public in a non-proprietary and electronic format.”
A history of the OPEN act can be seen here; the full text of the bill here; and the announcement of the signature here.