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Presidential Executive Order Supports Open Data

In an effort to increase interoperability and openness, the Federal Government has made significant progress towards improved management of its extensive information resources; progress that may just lead to actionable new contract and growth opportunities amidst the broader tight spending environment.

In January 2009, the President released a memorandum on Transparency and Open Government instructing agencies to take specific actions to implement the principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration.  Then, in December 2009, the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) released the Open Government Directive requiring agencies to expand access to information by making it available online and in open formats.

Now, the Obama administration is placing additional pressure on agencies to release government data to the public and ensure it is packaged in formats that promote widespread use and dissemination.  In his Executive Order[1] released May 9th and accompanied by a memorandum[2] from the OMB and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, President Obama has directed agencies to make their data easy to find and use by the public, “wherever possible and legally permissible.”

Under the new policy, all new federal government information, as a default, will be required to use common core and extensible metadata to provide open source, machine readable data, regardless of whether originally collected electronically, by phone, or on paper.  Agencies must also build or modernize information systems in a way that maximizes interoperability and information accessibility, as well as maintain an updated inventory of their data sets and provide a public listing of all available data.

In order to ensure that privacy is maintained, agencies must incorporate privacy analyses into each stage of the information’s lifecycle and strengthen measures to ensure that privacy and confidentiality are fully protected and that data are properly secured.

Though the effort will involve government-wide coordination, the upfront investment will be funded through agencies’ current capital planning and budget processes.  According to Obama’s executive order, the OMB will similarly push agencies to integrate the new requirements in procurement and grant operations, “including developing sample requirement language, grant and contract language, and workforce tools for agency acquisition, grant, and information management and technology professionals.”

With a decreasing government workforce making internal implementation of the President’s May 9th Order more challenging, contractors should keep their eyes peeled for new opportunities surrounding the increased IT requirements, stricter security policies, and need for modernization now required of agencies.

[1] Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information (May 9, 2013)

[2] Open Data Policy—Managing Information as an Asset (May 9, 2013)