The Effect of the White House Open Data Policy Release on GitHub


What is the White House Open Data Policy?

 Recently there has been a lot of buzz around the release of the White House’s new Open Data Policy released in Memorandum M-13-13. For those of you that may not have read the memorandum in its entirety it directs federal agencies to make all data open and machine readable by default. Obviously there are caveats to that. Agencies can redact data that does not meet disclosure standards regarding security and privacy. The excitement centers around the language of “open by default”.

The Real Impact of “Open by Default”

What impact does this have on open data initiatives at the municipal level and more directly, how does this affect Open Raleigh?

Some immediate impacts are listed below:

  • M-13-13 creates a new standard for governments to emulate. “Open by default” is a completely different paradigm in regards to an enterprise data strategy. All enterprise applications at the White House level will now have to make machine readable open data as part of every evaluation in regards to vendor management and procurement. 
  • Any data strategy not emulating this new standard as put forth by the White House may be seen as less rigorous by constituents within that municipality. Open Raleigh is no exception. This memorandum will be the topic at the next Open Raleigh Steering Committee meeting set for the last Friday in May. 
  • “Open by default” in practice may affect other considerations (user experience and features versus meeting the new “open by default” standard) when purchasing new applications or considering the renewal of existing applications. 
  • Adoption of “open by default” will require an enterprise wide data strategy requiring an internal infrastructure that can support such a standard.

Open Data Policy as Open Source: Project Open Data

The White House move to release the Open Data Policy and supporting documentation on GitHub essentially makes this policy now open source. This is a similar model to the one being developed by Open Raleigh. Once Open Raleigh’s steering committee has worked through its draft on open data policy for the City of Raleigh, this policy will go through a formal adoption process and then be released to GitHub as well. Citizens will be able to comment on the draft and participate in the policy creation process.

The timing of Project Open Data by the White House is ideal for Raleigh and the other municipalities within the Triangle. Making the policy and the implantation process open source allows for others to adopt and fork these ideas to suit the local environment. Open Raleigh may or may not be ready for “open by default” but it certainly is ready to share the work that is being done by its steering committee with the community.

The White House has made a bold move with the release of its policies, implementation plans, schemas and workflows onto GitHub. Will “open by default” work a the federal level? Time will tell. Adopting it at the local level will require serious thinking and collaboration on the part of Raleigh. This is something we need to start that conversation.


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