Obama sets new open-data policy to foster innovation

(Saul Loeb/AFP-Getty)
(Saul Loeb/AFP-Getty)

President Obama issued an executive order Thursday to make previously inaccessible federal data available to innovators including entrepreneurs and researchers.

The move was one of two executive actions the president planned to announce during a Thursday visit to Texas, with both actions aimed at boosting the national economy, as reporter Phillip Rucker noted in a Washington Post article on the trip.

The other action involved launching a competition for three new “manufacturing innovation institutes” that the president had promised during his State of the Union speech in February.

The new open-data policy requires that the government make information available in machine-readable formats while also safeguarding privacy and security.

In its announcement Thursday, the White House listed several ways the national economy has benefited from access to federal information, including through the use of weather and health-care industry data, as well as the government’s Global Positioning System, which was initially reserved for military use.

“We’re making it easier for people to find the data and use it, so that entrepreneurs can build products and services we haven’t even imagined yet,” Obama said.

Several government-transparency advocates applauded the president’s order on Thursday.

“Today’s announcement by the White House signals a new era for open data in our government,” said Sunlight Foundation executive director Ellen Miller.

“Properly implemented, this policy will allow Americans to know more about their government’s activities and critical issues that affect their lives, including public health, safety, and the environment,” said Sean Moulton, director of open-government policy for the Center for Effective Government. “Access to this information is crucial to our democracy and the government’s effectiveness.”

 

For more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed, subscribe to his Facebook page or e-mail josh.hicks@washpost.comE-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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