Technology evolves rapidly, and it can be challenging for policy and its implementation to evolve at the same pace. Last week, President Obama launched the Administration’s new Open Data Policy and Executive Order aimed at ensuring that data released by the government will be as accessible and useful as possible. To make sure this tech-focused policy can keep up with the speed of innovation, we created Project Open Data.
Project Open Data is an online, public repository intended to foster collaboration and promote the continual improvement of the Open Data Policy. We wanted to foster a culture change in government where we embrace collaboration and where anyone can help us make open data work better. The project is published on GitHub, an open source platform that allows communities of developers to collaboratively share and enhance code. The resources and plug-and-play tools in Project Open Data can help accelerate the adoption of open data practices. For example, one tool instantly converts spreadsheets and databases into APIs for easier consumption by developers. The idea is that anyone, from Federal agencies to state and local governments to private citizens, can freely use and adapt these open source tools—and that’s exactly what’s happening.
Within the first 24 hours after Project Open Data was published, more than two dozen contributions (or “pull requests” in GitHub speak) were submitted by the public. The submissions included everything from fixing broken links, to providing policy suggestions, to contributing new code and tools. One pull request even included new code that translates geographic data from locked formats into open data that is freely available for use by anyone.
These steps may seem small, but they represent a big shift. Behind these actions is recognition of the simple fact that, as a community, we can do more together than we can alone. Project Open Data leverages the ingenuity of innovators everywhere as partners to help the country realize the full benefit of open data.
We are excited to test this new model of policy refinement and implementation. We invite you to add your own contributions to Project Open Data, and hope you will participate in helping to transform our government for the 21st century.
Here’s how Project Open Data works:
Todd Park is the US Chief Technology Officer
Steven VanRoekel is the US Chief Information Officer.