Open Data: Good, Not Yet Great

The White House is close to issuing a new policy requiring agencies to release data in open, machine-readable formats. That’s good.

Great would be the White House itself publishing machine-readable, open data when it issues the president’s budget in February. Along with the plan for fiscal year 2014 spending, why couldn’t we get the code that distinctly identifies each agency, bureau, program, and project—in essence, the organization of the U.S. federal government?

I find it continually amazing that there is still no machine-readable government organization chart. It’s the trellis on which endless forms of computer-aided oversight (internal and external) could grow.

Opening federal data to public uses is good, but the data that reflects government deliberations, management, and results is what really matters for transparency. I shared my thinking on all this in my recent Cato Policy Analysis, “Grading the Government’s Data Publication Practices.”