12 Days of Open Government Resolutions – Day 7: Agency Data Inventories

Each post in the series of posts we plan to publish between now and December 25 focuses on a resolution the Obama Administration realistically can use to make the federal government more open and accountable in the coming year. See below for links to previous resolutions.

Open Government Resolution 7 for the Obama Administration – Direct agencies to make enough information available so that the public can have an informed opinion of what is "high-value" data

The Administration made a concerted effort to encourage agencies to identify and release their data sets when they issued the Open Government Directive: agencies were directed to release initially at least three high-value data sets through Data.gov, and to create a strategic action plan to inventory high-value data and establish a reasonable timeline to publish any high-value data not yet available. The Directive defined “high-value information” as: information that can be used to increase agency accountability and responsiveness; improve public knowledge of the agency and its operations; further the core mission of the agency; create economic opportunity; or respond to need and demand as identified through public consultation.” Although this high-level guidance points in the right directions, there has been no discernible outreach to agencies’ publics and stakeholders to determine what they think these terms mean and what information the terms would cover.

From the public's perspective, it's impossible to fairly judge what high-value data is, or know which data sets we should nominate to be made available through data.gov if we do not know what data sets the agencies are holding. A good model for agencies to follow to make information about their data holdings available is index included in the Department of Transportation's Regulatory and Compliance Plan (developed in response to the President's  January 18, 2011 Memorandum on Regulatory Compliance); such indices should not stop with regulatory data, of course. DOT's plan includes a description of all of their data plans, and discussion of any issues that are stopping the agency from making the data available.

12 Days of Open Government Resolutions for the Obama Administration:

Resolution 1: Begin gathering public input for Version 2 of the US National Action Plan

Resolution 2: Make it easier for the public to track agencies’ open government work

Resolution 3: Encourage Agencies to Join FOIAOnline

Resolution 4: Direct Agencies to Update their FOIA Regulations

Resolution 5: Direct agencies to make all Reports to Congress and Communications with Members of Congress available in a central location on the agency website

Resolution 6: Direct all agencies that collect electronic visitor records to make them available to the public in an easy-to-search and downloadable format

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