So far its been a good week for open government data (and its only Tuesday)! After yesterday’s announcement from UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, today the US Government’s Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra gave a live webcast from the Whitehouse to announce the release of the new Open Government Directive as well as a progress report on the state of the Open Government Initiative.

So – whats new in the world of open government data in the US? Well first of all, the announcement blog says we can expect lots more data in the coming weeks and months:

We are also publishing online never-before-available data about federal spending and research. At, for instance, what started as 47 data sets from a small group of federal agencies has grown into more than 118,000 today – with thousands more ready to be released starting this week.

For example, the open government progress report explicitly mentions (p.7) :

  • New nutrition data: “a database of the 1,000 most commonly eaten foods”
  • New data on FOIA requests: in machine readable format with “detailed statistics on the number and disposition of FOIA requests, including response times, volume of requests, and personnel costs”
  • New data on Federal Advisory Committees: “12 years of Committee data […] including 11,430 individual committee records detailing $3.24 billion in related spending for 77,740 meetings and 11,317 reports.”
  • New data on energy: including detailed timely information on the “amount of raw energy generated through hydropower”
  • New data on patents: details of 7,000,000 patents
  • New data on migration: IRS Statistics of Migration Data, information on “migration patterns of tax return filers moving from county-to-county or state-to-state” and “raw data on the volume of applications to the United States Customs and Immigration Service field offices”
  • New data on health and care: including on veterans facilities.
  • New data on education: including information on recipients of Federal financial assistance

The Directive also sets lots of milestones for the release of new data from US Federal Government agencies across the board. For example:

Within 45 days: Each agency shall publish at at least three new, high-value data sets.

Within 60 days: Each agency shall create an open-government web page to serve as the gateway for agency activities related to the Open Government Directive.

Finally the Directive reiterates previous policies, such as a “presumption in favor of openness“, commitment to publish in a timely manner, and so on. We were particularly pleased to see a focus on legal and technical reusability. It looks like the new data will be raw and machine readable as well as compliant with the Open Knowledge Definition!

To the extent practicable and subject to valid restrictions, agencies should publish information online in an open format that can be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, and searched by commonly used web search applications. An open format is one that is platform independent, machine readable, and made available to the public without restrictions that would impede the re-use of that information.

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Dr. Jonathan Gray is Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, where he is currently writing a book on data worlds. He is also Cofounder of the Public Data Lab; and Research Associate at the Digital Methods Initiative (University of Amsterdam) and the médialab (Sciences Po, Paris). More about his work can be found at and he tweets at @jwyg.

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