The open data movement is gaining acceleration in a number of governments around the world, including Washington where President Barack Obama earlier this month issued a remarkable executive order.
According to Vancouver-based expert David Eaves, what Obama directed federal bureaucrats to ensure that all new hardware and software have a means for exporting data in a way others can use it. Data generated by the U.S. government has to be available in machine-readable formats, while meeting privacy and security safeguards.
Why is open data important? “Finding better ways to get people safety, health, energy or education data in their hands at the moment they are making an important decision is something open data can facilitate,” writes Eaves.
Our federal government is in the early stages of honing its open data policy, having issued an action plan a year ago.
To varying degrees Canadian provinces and local governments have also been the embracing open data challenge. However, in an email Eaves said the Obama order further accelerates the United States away from Canada’s progress for two reasons: First, it makes open data the default position for any data created by Washington.
In practice it means the order is as much about procurement as anything else because any new computer system must make it easy for the data to be exported and shared, Eaves wrote.
The other part of the order is that it reveals how much the open data work in the U.S. is policy focused. It is about achieving policy goals – enabling businesses and protecting consumers – and not just doing open data for the sake of open data, Eaves said.