OPEN Government Data Act Means Changes for Agency Leadership

Last month the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2017 passed Congress and was signed into law. Included in this legislation was the OPEN Government Data Act, which requires all non-sensitive government data to be made available to the public. The law established non-political Chief Data Officers (CDOs) to guide agencies in implementing this policy.

While many agencies already have a CDO, the new legislation expands this role to “establish Government-wide best practices for the use, protection, dissemination, and generation of data.”

While the legislation intends to make data more accessible to the public, the CDOs are also expected to use the data to create a more efficient and cooperative federal workforce.

Ted Kaouk, CDO at the Department of Agriculture, explains, “The original impetus was really about open data, and the value to the public, sharing across agencies. I think that’s proven to be very important … but I think the shift now is, from our Secretary’s perspective, creating a data-driven organization.”

In the Air Force, CDO Eileen Vidrine has begun implementing the VAULT model, standing for visible, accessible, understanding, linking and trustworthy data.

Kaouk and Vidrine both affirmed to government IT blog MERItalk that the critical part of this project will be engaging undersecretaries and leading a cultural change toward a “data driven mindset.”

To help agencies along, the new law requires each agency to maintain comprehensive data catalogs and facilitate cooperative relationships with non-government entities, such as businesses and researchers, to ensure that information is accessible and valuable to the public.

The legislation also calls for the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study to assess agency compliance with the law and the value of the data to the public within the next three years.

The law passed through the House on a voice vote and through the Senate by unanimous consent.

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