2019 in Review: A Year of Rapid, Lasting Change for Federal Data Policy

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Federal Open Data

2019 in Review: A Year of Rapid, Lasting Change for Federal Data Policy

In 2019, tremendous bipartisan efforts led to new federal data laws, progress on legislation that may become law in 2020, and gains inside the Executive Branch for implementing strategies to make government data more accessible and useable. Amidst a backdrop of hyper-partisanship and political turmoil in Washington, DC, the bipartisan approach for improving the federal government’s data policies cannot be understated.

Here are a few highlights from the past 12 months on areas of success for Data Coalition priorities:

  • New Law Enacted with Comprehensive Data Governance Framework. In January 2019, the President signed the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (Evidence Act), which includes the OPEN Government Data Act and the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act. The Data Coalition lobbied for the successful passage of this legislation that contains half of the recommendations made by the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking and overhauls the federal government’s data infrastructure to prioritize data governance and management. The law also established a new c-suite role at each federal agency — the chief data officer — and recognizes new leadership roles for evaluation and statistics. Congress even included additional funding in the final FY 2020 appropriations at the Data Coalition’s request to support implementation efforts.
  • Unanimous Congressional Approval of Grant Modernization. In December 2019, Congress unanimously passed the Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements (GREAT) Act; it is expected to be signed by the President soon.  The bill amends existing law to transform federal grant reporting for the modern era by directing federal agencies to improve and streamline how information is collected and used.
  • Advancement of Processes for Innovative Data Applications in Government. While more than 50 bills related to artificial intelligence are under consideration in Congress, the Data Coalition’s priority the AI in Government Act advanced through committees in both chambers of Congress with bipartisan support. The bill will establish processes and guidance for responsibly and ethically applying AI across government.
  • Progress on Ensuring an Accurate 2020 Census. In 2019, Congress provided additional funding to support the Census Bureau’s herculean count of the American population in 2020, and with the endorsement of the Data Coalition, a bipartisan resolution rapidly progressed in the Senate to promote an effective census.
  • Renewed Dialogue and Enthusiasm for Entity Identification in the U.S. Through the Data Coalition’s advocacy efforts, a new conversation is underway in Congress about the strategy for adopting legal entity identifiers in the country’s financial services sector. The Financial Transparency Act was refiled earlier this year with a senior Democratic and senior Republican co-sponsoring the legislation.
  • Development of the Federal Data Strategy and 1-Year Action Plan. The White House finalized its Federal Data Strategy, including activities in partnership with the Data Coalition, outlining an implementation strategy for the Evidence Act, support for AI research, and an enhanced governance framework that will continue to be a priority in coming years.

 

Other Data Coalition priorities are also advancing as work proceeds to establish a federal data service, Congress considers the Taxpayer Right to Know Act developing program inventories, the National Security Commission on AI produces its final recommendations, the Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building is established and begins to deliberate, and as our country’s lawmakers consider reforms through the Select Committee on Modernization of Congress.  

In short, the Data Coalition’s advocacy efforts paid off tremendously this year – and are continuing to accrue benefits – for the American people and our society. Through nearly 100 briefings on key policy priorities, the GovDATAx Summit, and countless other activities this year that bring together the corners of the data community, the Data Coalition’s members and expertise achieved real and lasting headway for the country.

In 2020 and beyond, as agencies work to implement the Evidence Act, the GREAT Act, and more, the Data Coalition members and staff will continue to serve as a resource to hold government accountable for effective implementation while also devising strategies for continuous improvement. The moment for more meaningfully transforming government data into a strategic asset is upon us and we hope the continued enthusiasm and support for the Data Coalition’s efforts will sustain this momentum in the coming years. More importantly, have confidence that in 2020 conversations about better using government data as an asset will continue to bring together Republicans and Democrats as we work to achieve common goals for improving society and meeting the needs of the American people.