The state of the union of open data

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Data Transparency 2016, the fourth annual policy conference hosted by the Data Foundation in September 2016, was a significant step forward for the open data movement in the United States. Over 1,000 government, nonprofit, and industry leaders came together to learn about developments in the field, share best practices, and work toward a future in which more open government data will bring better management and oversight, increased private innovation and competition, and a better basis for shared decision-making. Data Transparency 2016 occurred at a historic time for the open data movement, with the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) set to take effect in May 2017, requiring every U.S. federal agency to begin reporting its spending as open data. The DATA Act will transform the federal government’s spending information into a single, standardized open data set – perhaps the most valuable government data resource in the world.

The U.S. open data movement has no leader, but is invigorated by the nation’s government, nonprofit, and tech-industry sectors. Because Data Transparency 2016 brought together all of the major constituencies of the open data movement, we believe the combined perspectives of its participants represent the State of the Union of open data in the United States, in a way that one leader’s views never could.

Accordingly, we conducted interviews with more than 40 presenters at Data Transparency 2016, including Congressional and agency leaders, open data experts and advocates, and private sector leaders, and we requested written submissions from many others. By combining their perspectives, this report seeks to capture the moment, provide a vision of the future, and catalyze further efforts for the open data movement.

Even among Data Transparency 2016 presenters, opinions of the significance of open data ranged from those calling the movement a “radical transformation” of our society and a “monumental change” to those calling open data a “buzzword” or “incremental at best.” This much is certain: The U.S. federal government is committed to releasing unprecedented levels of federal spending data going forward; proposed open data policy reforms enjoy strong bipartisan support; and federal agencies are more than ever before making standardized data available to the public. This report seeks to illuminate the areas of agreement and show how they might shape the future of the open data movement – and the future of U.S. government and society.

Read the full State of the Union of Open Data report