Center for Open Data Enterprise’s Transition Report: Open Data will be Business as Usual


This blog post is adapted from Data Coalition Executive Director Hudson Hollister’s remarks at the release of the Center for Open Data Enterprise’s Transition Report: An Action Plan for the Next Administration, on October 24, 2016, at the National Press Club.

Congratulations are in order to Joel Gurin and the staff of the Center for Open Data Enterprise. Today they have accomplished something nobody has ever done before. Today the Center for Open Data Enterprise has released its Transition Report, with recommendations for the next presidential administration’s first steps on open data. The Transition Report is the first time anyone has managed to capture all of the promise of open data to improve our government and society. Since these opportunities are as broad as government itself, creating the Transition Report was a major challenge and is an impressive accomplishment.

The next time someone asks me what our government should do to modernize, instead of waving my arms and babbling about data standards and data publication, I’ll just hand them the Transition Report.

Five years ago, “open data” was not a recognizable term.

Five years from now, if we succeed, “open data” will again be obscure.

Instead, government information will be electronically standardized and systematically published as a matter of course.

Public information – from spending to regulatory reports to legislative mandates to statistical compilations – will be standardized using open data formats, and published reliably for all of us to scrutinize.

Non-public information will be standardized too, and though not published, will still be more freely shared internally, accessible to decision-makers who need it.

This transformation from disconnected documents to comprehensive standardization and publication is going to solve a lot of problems.

For two admittedly self-serving examples, refer to Recommendations 5 and 24 of the Transition Report. First, by fully implementing the DATA Act of 2014, we will transform federal spending into a single open data set and use it to reduce waste and drive choices. Second, by adopting a standardized data format for all regulatory filings to multiple agencies, using the Standard Business Reporting approach that is succeeding in Australia, we will reduce the cost of regulatory compliance while improving transparency – without changing the substance of what companies must report to the government.

There is nothing innovative about open data. First, the need to use technology to keep track of government information is nothing new. Governments have been trying to keep track of information since the Babylonians. The Babylonians did a better job of using available technology for this purpose than we do.

Second, innovation happens outside the normal course of business. Standardizing data, and publishing it, needs to become the normal course of business.

So, for the next president, open data won’t be some sort of flashy side project the way it sometimes is for the current one. It will simply be management.

Standardizing government information and publishing it is not merely a technology project. It is not a transparency project. It is not an innovation project. Standardizing government information and publishing it is necessary to run the government. It’s what’s for dinner.

For all these reasons, the next president won’t be able to run our federal government – the largest, most complex organization in human history – unless she reads this report.

The Data Coalition spends its time lobbying Congress to enact reforms that make it easier to standardize and publish, and sometimes mandatory. You’d better believe that this report will show up in our advocacy in the 115th Congress.

Five years from now nobody will be talking about “open data.” Instead they’ll be blithely using fully-standardized, freely-available government data, the most valuable public resource on earth.

Most of them won’t know that they have Joel and the Center for Open Data Enterprise to thank. But we’ll know, and we do thank them.

Congratulations and good afternoon.