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Published on September 19th, 2017 | by

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Congress Pushes Ahead with A Legal Mandate for Open Data

WASHINGTON–The Center for Data Innovation today applauded the Senate for passing the National Defense Authorization Act which includes an amendment incorporating the text of the Open, Permanent, Electronic, and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act, introduced earlier this year by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Representatives Blake Farenthold (R-TX) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA). The Center issued the following statement from Director Daniel Castro:

After two years of bipartisan efforts to pass legislation codifying open data requirements for the federal government, it looks like the United States will finally have a law declaring the publication of open data as an official responsibility of the federal government. Federal open data policy in the United States is built on executive actions that are simply operating procedures for the executive branch and not law, meaning that federal agencies have no legal responsibility to publish open data. The lack of legally defined open data requirements has created uncertainty about the extent to which the federal government will remain committed to and responsible for opening its data to the public or refining and improving open-data efforts over time. Additionally, without legal requirements for open data the public has no guarantee that the government will maintain this valuable commitment to transparency, and the countless businesses that rely on open data have no guarantee that this valuable resource will be available in the years to come.

The bipartisan OPEN Government Data Act is the exact kind of guarantee needed to secure the benefits of open data. Since the House has already passed its version of NDAA that does not include the provisions of the OPEN Government Data Act, a conference committee will reconcile the two versions of the legislation before sending it to the president. Given the apolitical nature of open data and its bipartisan support, as well as recent support from the Office of Management and Budget, there is every reason to believe that the open data requirements in NDAA will soon become law.

The Center for Data Innovation was the first organization to call for federal open data legislation and has worked with a wide coalition of industry, academic, and civil society groups to urge Congress to act. The Senate should be commended for recognizing the economic and social value of open data and enshrining the federal government’s responsibility to publish open data into law.

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