New executive order in USA requires agencies to publish ‘open data’
One of the themes of our book is the continued progress in the open data movement. US President Barack Obama recently signed an Executive Order to make government-held data more accessible to the public, declaring that information is a valuable resource and strategic asset for the United States. The Memorandum establishes a framework to help institutionalise the principles of effective information management at each stage of the information’s useful life to promote interoperability and openness.
The Memorandum requires all major federal agencies under the executive branch to make their data “easy to find, accessible, and usable,” with an important caveat: “wherever possible and legally permissible.” The White House also released a new set of open source software tools on Github that federal agencies can use to get more of their data out onto the web in software developer and user-friendly formats, including one script that converts databases into software APIs.
Those of us working in the geospatial field know very well that it takes more than memoranda to truly make more data available to those needing it, including geospatial data. So, in one sense, this type of news seems like something we’ve heard before. Too often, government orders are issued and portals are designed that gather cyber-dust, largely unused because no GIS users were actually consulted in the process. Still, this recent news is encouraging. It is our hope that the people creating portals and systems that result from this new executive order will actually consult with the GIS community. That way, the data is more likely to be useful to those who need it.