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Open Data Executive Order Compliance: The Bad and The Good.

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The first major deadline for agency compliance with President Obama's open data Executive Order arrived this past Saturday. Agencies were required to, among other things, provide the Office of Management and Budget with an "Enterprise Data Inventory" and release a list of all their public data via a /data page on their websites.

We had hopes that some agencies might choose to publicly release their entire Enterprise Data Inventories, providing a full picture of their data holdings. Unfortunately, so far, that does not seem to have happened. Until the full inventories are available, the public will still be stuck in the dark, not knowing what we don’t know about government data holdings.

Nonetheless, most cabinet level agencies, as well as a number of independent agencies that were not required to comply, have taken steps to publicly fulfill the other aspects of the Executive Order. Levels of compliance have been varied, but we will try to highlight some of the worst and best examples below.

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Looking Towards Next Week’s Open Data Executive Order Deadline

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White HouseNovember 30th marks the first major deadline for agency compliance with President Obama’s Open Data Executive Order and accompanying Memorandum M-13-13. In addition to representing an important step in the march towards open government and proper data management, this is an opportunity to evaluate agencies, identify best practices, and advocate for change. The Executive Order will continue to be implemented over the coming months and years, but agencies should, and will, be judged on how much effort they put into this first deadline. The level of agency compliance now will be a clear representation of how seriously they take the Executive Order.

Guidance issued alongside the Executive Order provides a strong roadmap for agency participation, but leaves some important points up for interpretation. Notably, agencies are given too much leeway to keep even the existence of their data secret.

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Open Data Executive Order Deliverables Delayed

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If the government shutdown had not occurred, today, November 1, would have been an important deadline for federal agency transparency. The first major deliverables to come out of President Obama’s May 2013 Executive Order “Making Open and Machine Readable the new Default for Government Information,” and its accompanying Office of Management and Budget memorandum on “managing information as an asset,” were originally scheduled for November 1, but that deadline has officially been pushed back to November 30.

The executive order and accompanying OMB memo demand progress from agencies on four key areas: instituting enterprise data inventories, releasing public data listings, creating mechanisms for public comment, and documenting if data cannot be released to the public. Over the coming week’s we’ll dig a little deeper into these areas, discussing what we hope to see come November 30.

President Obama’s Executive Order is the latest in a series of executive actions that have cleared the path towards open and useable Federal government data. This most recent step is the surest yet and, coupled with detailed guidance released by OMB and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, should allow agencies to confidently move towards open and machine readable data as their default.

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New Louisville Open Data Policy Insists Open By Default is the Future

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On Tuesday, October 15, 2013, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced the signing of an open data policy executive order in conjunction with his compelling talk at the 2013 Code for America Summit. In nonchalant cadence, the mayor announced his support for complete information disclosure by declaring, "It's data, man." What's more is this was one of three open data policies signed into law over the last week, the others being California’s West Sacramento and Oakland policies. (For the complete view, see our map of growing policies here.)

The Louisville policy is unique in that hits many of the Sunlight Foundation's Open Data Policy Guidelines rarely touched upon by others, including a strong "open by default" provision, and, like South Bend, IN, roots its basis for affecting the transparency of information disclosure firmly in legal precedent, in this case, the Kentucky Open Meetings and Open Records Act. Doing so further empowers it's "open by default" status. The Louisville policy also provides a clear series of checks and balances to insure information is disclosed by calling for (1) the creation of a comprehensive inventory supported by the letter of the law itself (which we have only seen in the 2013 U.S. federal policy thus far — and which has not yet been implemented), (2) a yearly open data report, and (3) built-in review of the policy itself for the ever-changing information and technology landscape ahead. We have broken out the significance and mechanics of Louisville's policy that support information disclosure further below.

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NYC’s Plan to Release All-ish of Their Data

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On Monday, September 23rd, New York City released a plan to, as Government Technology put, open “all” its data. Pursuant to section two of Local Law 11 of 2012 (§23-506 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York) — also known as NYC’s Open Data Policy — the long awaited agency compliance plan does complete the monolithic task of  listing all NYC agency public datasets, with scheduled release times of no later than the end of 2018, but there are ways it could have been more inclusive and comprehensive.

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How Unique is the New U.S. Open Data Policy?

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The White House’s new Executive Order may be significantly different than the open data policies that have come before it on the federal level, but where does it stand in a global -- and local -- context? Many folks have already jumped at the chance to compare this new US executive order and the new policies that accompany it to a similar public letter issued by UK Prime Minister David Cameron in 2010, but little attention has been paid to one of the new policy’s most substantial provisions: the creation of a public listing of agency data based on an internal audits of information holdings. As administrative as this provision might sound, the creation of this listing (and the accompanying scoping of what information isn’t yet public, but could be released) is part of the next evolution of open data policies (and something Sunlight has long called for as a best practice). So does this policy put the U.S. on the leading edge?

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Open Data Executive Order Shows Path Forward

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cords Today, the White House is issuing a new Executive Order on Open Data -- one that is significantly different from the open data policies that have come before it -- reflecting Sunlight's persistent call for stronger public listings of agency data, and demonstrating a new path forward for governments committing to open data. This Executive Order and the new policies that accompany it cover a lot of ground, building public reporting systems, adding new goals, creating new avenues for public participation, and laying out new principles for openness, much of which can be found in Sunlight's extensive Open Data Policy Guidelines, and the work of our friends and allies. Most importantly, though, the new policies take on one of the most important, trickiest questions that these policies face -- how can we reset the default to openness when there is so much data? How can we take on managing and releasing all the government's data, or as much as possible, without negotiating over every dataset the government has?

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