Don’t Let Open Data Go Dark

Joshua New August 11, 2015
August 11, 2015

As the federal government risks heading into another shutdown this fall, Congress should ensure that highly valuable open data will not again fall victim to politics, writes Josh New of the Center for Data Innovation in The Hill. Open data is even more important today than it was during the last government shutdown. As a result of President Obama’s ambitious open data effort, there are now well over 120,000 federal data sets publicly available through Data.gov. They constitute an increasingly vital resource for managing everything from the economy and public health, to disaster preparedness and scientific research. Congress should pass legislation that codifies and improves existing open data requirements, and directs agencies to assess which of their datasets might qualify as valuable enough to publish throughout a shutdown. The employees directly responsible for publishing and maintain these datasets should also necessarily be allowed to report to work. Additionally, Congress should prevent federal employees from taking proactive steps to make data portals, data sets, and data tools go dark in the days before a shutdown. While government spending may pit Democrats and Republicans against each other, open data issues do not. In 2014, the DATA Act, which implemented open data principles for reporting government spending, passed unanimously in the Senate. With such bipartisan support for open data, Congress should take advantage of what time it has after the August recess to protect crucial open data from a government shutdown.