Federal agencies drop their data IOU notes

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Federal Agencies Drop An IOUCowritten by Laurenellen McCann

When federal agencies released their open government plans earlier this month the thing I was most excited for was new data. While the Open Government Directive didn’t specifically require agencies to submit previously unavailable data, 75 new data sets have been promised for public release.

Some of these new data sets have never before been seen by the public. For others you needed to purchase expensive proprietary software. A few only covered a few years and are now being expanded – some to the turn of the 20th century!

There’s no single good methodology for determining “what’s new” just like there isn’t a single good methodology for defining a “single continuous data set”. To be clear this is a list of new data sets that are to be released on or after April 7th, 2010. Many government agencies released new data earlier in the year as well. This isn’t an exhaustive 2010 list – it’s a look into the future.

We’ve saved you the trouble of going into each plan individually by publishing the spreadsheet below. You can also download the information in a variety of formats by clicking on “Menu” in the upper left corner and then “Download this data.” View the data full screen by opening up the “Views” menu:

Open Government Plans: New Data after April 7th, 2010

This spreadsheet is meant to serve as a resource for citizens, journalists and government officials to get a heads up on what data the entire federal gov. has committed to publish.

It might come as a surprise that of the 31 agencies that published their Open Government plans on April 7th, only 16 are responsible for proposing the 75 new sets of data. The key word is new. Most government agencies promised to release data tools that were actually aggregators, dashboards, or other web services that run on information you can already find on Data.gov or other agency web sites. Others counted their recent releases of information that is already public and published every year.

These data sets did not meet our “newness” criteria. In order to account for what information is genuinely new a data set had to be newly released — that is, the data must have never before made available to the public online in a freely readable format. It also had be named, evidence that the agency releasing the data is actually initiating the process of opening up this information. Where possible included hyperlinks to additional information about the data set – in some cases it’s even the link to the page where the data will be published.

This spreadsheet is meant to serve as a resource for citizens, journalists and government officials to get a heads up on what data the entire federal government has committed to publish. Our Reporting team has already been writing about new data coming out of the Open Government plans and pointing out places where work still needs to be done.

We’re also releasing a single file download for all the federal Open Government plans. Instead of having to round up all 31 files individually, you can just download this single ZIP and get them all in one go.

If you’re looking for additional information about the Open Government plan of a particular agency, the White House has has published a list of hyperlinks. Beth Noveck, Deputy CTO and Director of the Open Government Directive has published a look into the horizon from her perspective. She also submits her highlights from other sections of the Open Government plan. Our focus has been the data section of the transparency plank – agencies were also asked to develop plans on participation and collaboration.

Any ideas on other ways we can make the Open Government Directive more useful to you is welcome in the comments. Be sure to sign our transparency pledge to keep government accountable to their promises!

Stay tuned for the week before May 1st – the White House will be releasing their own assessment of the Open Government plans.

Photo credit: “Federal IOU” by Laurenellen McCann Photo model: Nicko Margolies

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