Why the Trump administration should support open data

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Eight years ago, on his first day in office, President Barack Obama issued a Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government to set the tone for his administration. President-elect Donald Trump should maintain the commitments that launched with that memo and that have had widespread bipartisan support.

In particular, a continued commitment to open government data, a publicly available resource that anyone can use, can help achieve the new administration’s goals to make government more efficient and accountable, grow the economy, and develop national infrastructure.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have seen that open, publicly available data is critical to improving the workings of government. The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) of 2014, which passed the House and Senate almost unanimously, lays out a roadmap to make government spending data more publicly available and transparent than ever before.

The OPEN Government Data Act, a bill introduced into the current Congress, would go even further and cover more types of federal data and information.

The Trump administration should ensure full implementation of the DATA act and support the OPEN Government Data Act if it is reintroduced. The administration can also establish data as a key element of each federal agency’s mission, to support better, efficient data-driven decision making.

The new administration can harness open data for economic growth in several ways. It can help advance business innovation by ensuring that data from government-funded scientific research and government-held patents is readily available for use. It can standardize the ways businesses are required to report data to federal agencies — a change that can greatly reduce the regulatory burden on business while keeping key regulatory protections in place. And to further reduce unemployment, the administration can improve Department of Labor data on occupations and job skills to help job-seekers find valuable training and employment opportunities.

Finally, open data can play a key role in President-elect Trump’s plans for investing in American infrastructure. State and local open data about transportation, health care and education is a key part of the infrastructure that modern cities need to run efficiently and effectively. Additionally, local data that is accurate and accessible is essential to guide other infrastructure investments. Data on traffic flows and commuting patterns, for example, is critical to allocating investments in public transportation; city planners must consider data on flood risk when designing construction projects in high-risk areas; and engineers require data on energy usage patterns to guide decisions on power generation and energy supply.

The recent Open Data Transition Report from the Center for Open Data Enterprise describes these and many other opportunities for using open data.

In the months before the election, the center consulted with over 70 representatives from companies, nonprofits, government and academia on ways that the next administration can apply open data. We hope that the Trump Administration will consider the report and its 27 recommendations, and will use open data as a cost-effective, powerful and widely applicable tool for improving government accountability and supporting new government and business initiatives.

Joel Gurin is President of the Center for Open Data Enterprise, where Katherine Garcia is Director of Communications and Project Manager for the Open Data Transition Report. The report is available at opendataenterprise.org/transition-report. For questions or feedback on the report and its recommendations, please contact Katherine Garcia at katherine@odenterprise.org.

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