Six years after the Sunlight Foundation delivered an open government scorecard, we were honored to speak at the first White House Open Data Summit in Washington this week. Sunlight has been and continues to be proud of our legacy of open government activism and advocacy over the past decade, pushing to make openness and machine-readability the default for the disclosure of government information.
To use the basketball metaphor that President Barack Obama often applies in the “4th quarter” of his term, his administration has had a good second half. Open data’s journey through this administration has been full of fits, starts, failures and firsts, but history will measure this aspect of Obama’s legacy as an important transition between the files and forms of the 20th century and the apps and services of the 21st century.
Video of the entire program is embedded below, along with our prepared slides. Jump ahead to 5:50 to view our part of the program.
As we said during the program, open government data is in the DNA of the United States, going back to when the Census was mandated in our Constitution in 1789, creating knowledge of, by and for the people. As we consider the data initiatives, commitments, plans and reforms instituted in the Obama administration, however, we must balance their weight against the challenges that journalists have continued to face around Freedom of Information Act requests, where all too frequently real accountability has come through a court order. We’re still waiting for several Cabinet agencies to publish a 2016 open government plan, as Obama ordered in his 2009 Open Government Directive.
In cities, states and countries around the world, we increasingly see a new public expectation: that government data should be freely accessible to the public over the internet. As legacies go, that’s one that everyone involved can and should be proud of inspiring. Now that yesterday’s celebration has ended, it’s time to go back to the hard work of ensuring that open government data is baked into the U.S. Code. Our government will only be as good as we all make it, together.