The status of policy implementations of Open Government Data

On the Open House Project mail list, Gregory Slater asked:

Once again, where are we in simple mere machine readable, standardized format, truly searchable data

Things are getting better all the time. It’s not fast. But there is slow and steady progress.

2009 was a big year. We saw the Senate start publishing votes in XML, the launch of and the Open Government Directive, and the GPO released XML for the Federal Register and Code of Federal Regulations. The House also began publishing its spending data electronically. There were also open standards laws passed in Vancouver and Portland.

2010 was a big year for posturing. We saw introduced in Congress H.R. 4983: Transparency in Government Act of 2010 (Quigley), H.R. 6289: To  direct the Librarian of Congress to make available to the public the bulk legislative… (Foster), and H.R. 4858: The Public Online Information Act of 2010. The Congressional Transparency Caucus was created (Quigley/Issa). An open data law was passed in San Francisco, and bills were introduced in New York City and New York State.

This year, an open data bill was introduced in New Hampshire (HB 310-FN), and POIA was reintroduced (Israel/Tester). I just noticed that GPO has last month added a bulk data download for Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States (2009). The new House rules package addresses public access to committee records and data formats, though I am not aware if the rules have had any practical consequences.

We owe Sunlight a lot of credit for pushing many of these things forward.

Besides all of this, there have been a number of “contests” lately ( some offering prizes to use government data. Clay Johnson posted two new ones to the sunlightlabs mail list this week. The only thing I’ll say here about the strategy of the open government movement is that we haven’t taken the challenges seriously, and I think it’s a missed opportunity to show why open data matters. But it’s just one of many things to do.