Policy Agenda

The Data Coalition advocates for policy reforms to transform government information into open data.

Open data requires two steps: first, standardize the information using nonproprietary data elements and structures; second, publish the information for open access. Open data has three benefits: increased public accountability, improved internal data-driven management, and automated reporting for cheaper compliance.

Open data also generates economic opportunities. Data Coalition members represent an emerging industry which creates new value by republishing, analyzing, and automating data. Transforming government information into open data develops a national resource for these opportunities and builds the digital infrastructure for further growth.

Moreover, the adoption of emerging technologies, such as distributed ledgers, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, requires a foundation of data standardization. These technologies will progress faster as open data practices mature.

Policy Agenda

Government-wide Open Data Policy

The Data Coalition will continue to support broad mandates to transform all government management and programmatic information into open data.

Support the OPEN Government Data Act. The Coalition will advocate for and support the implementation of the Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act, first introduced in April 2016, to establish a comprehensive legal mandate for federal data assets to be open by default and made available in machine-readable, non-proprietary formats through a central federal data catalog. The Coalition will work with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue strong implementing guidance.

Support Executive Open Data Policy-Setting and Management. The Coalition will continue to encourage executive-branch leadership to create and adopt administrative and programmatic data standards and incorporate open data best practices throughout program performance evaluation, IT spending management, and general agency management. The Coalition will work with agency Chief Data Officers to define their roles and support their efforts.

Encourage Congressional Support for Open Data Work. The Coalition will continue to work with Congress to conduct necessary oversight, support federal programs critical to open data and standard-setting, and assure that new legislation leverages open data best practices.

In the States: Support Broad Open Data Mandates. The Coalition will continue to support broad open data mandates in the same spirit as the federal OPEN Government Data Act, such as New Jersey’s Open Data Initiative proposal, Arkansas’ legislative open data task force, and California’s chief data office. It is equally important for citizens to have ready access to their state and local governments’ resources of public management and programmatic information.

Open Data for Management

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act) (PL 113-101) requires the federal government to standardize and publish all executive-branch financial account and award spending information as open data. Every federal agency began reporting quarterly financial and weekly spending information as open data in May 2017. The U.S. Treasury must finalize the standardized publication of this spending information by May 2018. The DATA Act also directed the White House to pilot how the use of standardized data formats can improve the reporting process for recipients of federal grants and contracts.

The Coalition will encourage continued Congressional oversight on the DATA Act’s implementation, advocate for DATA Act expansion legislation, and educate stakeholders on accessing and using this new open data resource.

By integrating data-driven processes into government management, policy makers and executive leadership can deliver effectiveness and accountability. Data standards, starting with those set by the DATA Act and building outward, will enable such data-driven decision making

Support DATA Act Implementation Through Congressional Oversight. The Coalition will encourage vigorous Congressional oversight to ensure agencies’ DATA Act reporting is complete and of high-quality agency reporting. The Coalition will encourage Congressional use of DATA Act data to inform legislative decisions. The Coalition will seek Congressional recognition that the DATA Act Information Model Schema (DAIMS) serves as the primary government-wide administrative data standards.

Pursue DATA Act Expansion Legislation. To achieve the full vision of the DATA Act, the Coalition will seek the introduction of expansion legislation. The Coalition will pursue the following expansions, either through a single bill or smaller, stand-alone legislative actions:

(A) Extending the DATA Act’s data structure to cover all spending information, including category management, sub-award reporting, checkbook-level payments, performance reporting, Presidential budgets, appropriations bills, and special types of transactions and funds;

(B) Providing for the permanent, sustainable governance of the DATA Act’s data structure;

(C) Phasing out legacy reporting requirements that are duplicative of DATA Act reporting;

(D) Centralizing authority within the U.S. Treasury for data standardization and reports related to spending; and

(E) Creating a government-wide data analytics platform within the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) to use spending data to illuminate and eliminate waste and fraud. 

End Dependence on the DUNS Number. The Coalition will advocate for an end to the government’s sole reliance on the proprietary DUNS Number for identifying grantees and contractors. Instead, a non-proprietary identifier should be adopted, or cross-referenced, across all federal agencies to improve program management and empower regulatory enforcement.

Support the Passage of the GREAT Act to Modernize Grant Reporting. The Coalition will support the Grant Reporting Efficiency and Assistance Transparency Act (GREAT Act), which will direct the OMB Director and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create a comprehensive and standardized open data structure covering all post-award federal grant reports. The proposed legislation builds on the pilot program conducted by OMB under the DATA Act’s Section 5 to test the use of standardized data for grant reporting.

In the States: Encourage Spending Transparency and Open Data for CAFRs. The Coalition will continue to support state and local government efforts to create open spending data platforms, such as Ohio’s Online Checkbook, and seek ways to integrate these with federal DATA Act standardization work. The Coalition will continue to promote the standardization and publication of open data Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs).

Open Data for Regulatory Compliance

By adopting open data standards for the information it collects from the private sector, the federal government can improve accountability to the public and investors, facilitate data-driven analysis and decision making by agencies, and reduce compliance costs through automation. On a government-wide scale, Standard Business Reporting (SBR), as championed in the Netherlands and Australia, is the best example of open data for regulatory compliance.

The Coalition will push for the passage of legislation to replace financial regulatory documents with open data and support a longer-term move toward SBR in the United States.

Pass the Financial Transparency Act. The Financial Transparency Act (FTA), first introduced in May 2015, will direct the U.S. Treasury to work with the eight federal financial regulatory agencies to replace document-based reporting with open data, for all information they collect under the securities, commodities, and banking laws. If enacted, the FTA will be the nation’s first RegTech law. The Coalition will organize and lead a broad campaign to pass and implement the FTA. The Coalition will gather transparency supporters, the financial and technology industries, and regulatory modernization to support this campaign.

Design a Standard Business Reporting Policy. The Coalition will build the case for SBR in the United States, starting with a pilot program either initiated by the executive branch or mandated by Congress.

In the States: Encourage State-Level Standard Business Reporting. The Coalition will support state government initiatives to launch SBR programs to comprehensively standardize and publish the information their regulatory agencies collect from the private sector.

Open Data for Laws and Mandates

By expressing laws and bills as open data, instead of unstructured documents, Congress can ensure accountability to constituents, make lawmaking easier, and lay a foundation for automation in the future. For similar reasons, the federal government should express proposed and final regulatory rules as open data.

The Coalition will seek the passage of open legislative data mandates introduced in previous sessions of Congress, the introduction of a similar mandate for regulatory materials, and reforms to open up federal court information.

Pass Open Data Mandates for Bills and Laws. The Coalition will advocate for the passage of open legislative data mandates first introduced in 2016, including the Searchable Legislation Act, the Statutes at Large Modernization Act, and the Establishing Digital Interactive Transparency (EDIT) Act. These pieces of legislation, collectively, will commit Congress to create and use a comprehensive open data structure for bills, amendments, and enacted laws.

Support Legislative Modernization. The Coalition will continue to support efforts to modernize Congress’ legislative process, including bill drafting, Committee action, amendment, publication, and codification. In particular, the Coalition will continue to support the ongoing adoption of the U.S. Legislative Markup (USLM) standard by the Senate, House, and legislative support offices, and greater access to bulk data on the legislative process.

In the States: Support Open Data for Laws and Mandates. The Coalition will continue to support the use of open data to express states’ bills, laws, and regulations.