Open Data Plans Become New Government Transparency Trend

Digital WorldAs of late, it may seem as if informational technology professionals cannot stop talking about data and how they can ensure it is safe from prying eyes. While the vast majority of companies out there are trying to keep their information under wraps, there appears to be a recent push among a number of government officials, making their data available for public viewing. At the moment, these open data plans have not come to fruition, as they still have to be approved by governmental bodies. However, there has been a major push for these proposals to pass among representatives and members of the public alike, both of whom wish to promote transparency at every stage of public initiatives.

Feds push for standardized data sharing
On the federal level, Americans await Congress’ decision with regards to the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, legislation that has been three years in the making. Right now, the process of documenting government expenses is convoluted, disjointed and private, according to InformationWeek. If this bill were to pass, then all of the financial information belonging to federal agencies would be standardized across the board, stored in a uniform and consolidated database that would then be made accessible to the public.

To accomplish this, though, government offices would have to exert a great deal of effort, forcing them to digitize all of their records, making them compliant with a unified set of standards and then finally publicizing them for people to see. By doing so, not only would private companies have this data at their disposal, but other public offices could also access this information, possibly fostering collaboration and efficiency throughout all levels of the government.

It would enable more effective data compliance among all the agencies, while eliminating a bulk of bureaucracy so that decisions can be made more quickly and with fewer resources. There would be no need for go-betweens or complex processes to share information among agencies. Not to mention, it would benefit private businesses, whose IT teams are leveraging big data to refine their operations, by providing them with a wealth of insight.

The DATA Act is expected to raise transparency among a wider demographic, as well as a more inclusive range of financial reporting. The source explained that if this bill were to pass, the existing USAspending.gov website would be further developed, requiring organizations to enter more in-depth data to increase documentation of federal spending. In addition, the potential law would lower the threshold for reporting costs, which means that small sums of tax dollars that were once considered too insignificant to be documented would have to be disclosed.

Although the DATA Act is expected to pass both parts of Congress, there is substantial doubt about whether the Obama administration will place its stamp of approval on the bill. Even if it is made a law, the White House will play a major role in how effective the DATA Act will be, being responsible for enforcing compliance and having all agencies adopt the IT-heavy system in a timely manner.

Municipality makes move for open data
Regardless of whether this plan becomes a reality for the feds, this is probably not the last time that government organizations propose an open data system, so IT professionals working in the public sector should prepare themselves. For instance, the officials in the city of Boston have already been discussing taking on their own open data initiative. According to BostInno, City Councilor Michelle Wu recently filed an ordinance that, if approved, would make municipal data available to citizens.

“Government today should center on making data-driven decisions and inviting in the public to collaborate around new ideas and solutions,” said Councilor Wu in a statement, as cited by the source. “The goal of this ordinance is greater transparency, access and innovation. We need a proactive, not a reactive, approach to information accessibility and open government.”

At the moment, the city only publicizes select statistics through its data.cityofboston.gov site. However, with Wu’s efforts, all municipal departments would be required to share data with the public, letting everyone see exactly how their tax dollars are being used. Additionally, it will allow for better accountability and improved efficiency throughout all the city agencies.

Marie Larsen
Marie is a writer for CIOs.com. She has an educational background in languages and literature. She covers IT trends and executive technology management topics for the company.