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U.S Government Launches Data.gov Open Government Initiative

Data.gov strives to make government more transparent

I'm happy to announce that the U.S. Federal Government earlier today launched the new Data.Gov website. The primary goal of Data.Gov is to improve access to Federal data and expand creative use of those data beyond the walls of government by encouraging innovative ideas (e.g., web applications). Data.gov strives to make government more transparent and is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. The openness derived from Data.gov will strengthen the Nation's democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

As a priority Open Government Initiative for President Obama's administration, Data.gov increases the ability of the public to easily find, download, and use datasets that are generated and held by the Federal Government. Data.gov provides descriptions of the Federal datasets (metadata), information about how to access the datasets, and tools that leverage government datasets. The data catalogs will continue to grow as datasets are added. Federal, Executive Branch data are included in the first version of Data.gov.

Public participation and collaboration will be one of the keys to the success of Data.gov. Data.gov enables the public to participate in government by providing downloadable Federal datasets to build applications, conduct analyses, and perform research. Data.gov will continue to improve based on feedback, comments, and recommendations from the public and is activily encouraging individuals to suggest datasets they'd like to see, rate and comment on current datasets.

In a recent interview on NextGov.com, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra shed some details on Data.Gov & Open Government Initiative. "We recognize the power of tapping into the ingenuity of the American people and recognize that government doesn't have a monopoly on the best ideas or always have the best idea on finding an innovative path to solving the toughest problems the country faces. By democratizing data and making it available to the public and private sector ... we can tap into that ingenuity."

One of the most telling aspects of the new Data.Gov website is the Data policy which outlines a broad usage policy which states data accessed through Data.gov do not, and should not, include controls over its end use. In a sense the U.S. federal government has open sourced large portions of public information. It will be very interesting to see how people use this fountain of information.

Data Policy

  1. Public Information
    All datasets accessed through Data.gov are confined to public information and must not contain National Security information as defined by statute and/or Executive Order, or other information/data that is protected by other statute, practice, or legal precedent. The supplying Department/Agency is required to maintain currency with public disclosure requirements.
  2. Security
    All information accessed through Data.gov is in compliance with the required confidentiality, integrity, and availability controls mandated by Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 199 as promulgated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the associated NIST publications supporting the Certification and Accreditation (C&A) process. Submitting Agencies are required to follow NIST guidelines and OMB guidance (including C&A requirements).
  3. Privacy
    All information accessed through Data.gov must be in compliance with current privacy requirements including OMB guidance. In particular, Agencies are responsible for ensuring that the datasets accessed through Data.gov have any required Privacy Impact Assessments or System of Records Notices (SORN) easily available on their websites.
  4. Data Quality and Retention
    All information accessed through Data.gov is subject to the Information Quality Act (P.L. 106-554). For all data accessed through Data.gov, each agency has confirmed that the data being provided through this site meets the agency's Information Quality Guidelines.

    As the authoritative source of the information, submitting Departments/Agencies retain version control of datasets accessed through Data.gov in compliance with record retention requirements outlined by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
  5. Secondary Use
    Data accessed through Data.gov do not, and should not, include controls over its end use. However, as the data owner or authoritative source for the data, the submitting Department or Agency must retain version control of datasets accessed. Once the data have been downloaded from the agency's site, the government cannot vouch for their quality and timeliness. Furthermore, the US Government cannot vouch for any analyses conducted with data retrieved from Data.gov.
  6. Citing Data
    The agency's preferred citation for each dataset is included in its metadata. Users should also cite the date that data were accessed or retrieved from Data.gov. Finally, users must clearly state that "Data.gov and the Federal Government cannot vouch for the data or analyses derived from these data after the data have been retrieved from Data.gov."
  7. Public Participation
    In support of the Transparency and Open Government Initiative, recommendations from individuals, groups and organizations regarding the presentation of data, data types, and metadata will contribute to the evolution of Data.gov.
  8. Applicability of this Data Policy
    Nothing in this Data Policy alters, or impedes the ability to carry out, the authorities of the Federal Departments and Agencies to perform their responsibilities under law and consistent with applicable legal authorities, appropriations, and presidential guidance, nor does this Data Policy limit the protection afforded any information by other provisions of law. This Data Policy is intended only to improve the internal management of information controlled by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government and it is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity, by a party against the United States, its Departments, Agencies, or other entities, its officers, employees, or agents.
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