New White House plan reaffirms commitment to open data

A White House plan released on Friday announced new plans to make government data open to the public.

The Second Open Government National Action Plan updates an earlier iteration and lists a few new open data initiatives, such as creating a formal advisory committee to govern the Freedom of Information Act, a law requiring federal agencies to share records at the request of citizens. The new plan also calls for updates in existing initiatives, such as further development of data.gov, which houses federal data sources for public use.

The plan is largely a reaffirmation of President Obama’s commitment to open data, said John Wonderlich, policy director at the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit advocating government transparency. “The [plan] obscures what’s new and what isn’t — the important thing is having some commitment [to open data] and making it public before other countries do,” Wonderlich said.

Still, just creating a new committee to oversee freedom of information requests “isn’t necessarily progress, it’s just a new conversation,” Wonderlich said. “It doesn’t mean more FOIA requests will be granted.”

The White House announced it would create a new online application that would allow third parties to gather signatures and perform data analyses on signatures and petitions. It will also require some agencies to participate in whistleblower certification programs and comply with the Whistleblower Protection Act.

Mohana Ravindranath covers IT and small business for the Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication.
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