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Lawmakers Push for Open Data in Government

Senators Schatz, Sasse & Representatives Kilmer, Farenthold Reintroduce OPEN Act

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06), Blake Farenthold (R-TX-27) and Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) jointly reintroduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to open up government data to improve services and support new discoveries in the private sector.

The Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act requires that public data be accessible at so individuals, organizations and other government offices can utilize it. Last week, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee reviewed and discussed the bill.

“Public information should be public, and in this day and age, that means it should be online, easy to find, and easy to use,” said Senator Schatz, Ranking Member of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet. “Our bill will expand transparency while making it easier for everyone – from the public and private sectors to civil society and schools – to use this data to learn and improve our world.” 

“Washington doesn't get data,” said Sasse. “There's nothing especially useful about a spreadsheet trapped in a locked box but that's basically how things work now. We need to make sure that appropriate and publicly available data is easily accessible to folks who can put it to work.”

“Our goal is to make data more open to the public and more efficiently used by government agencies,” said Kilmer. “Making open data standard practice will create a more responsive government and help everyday Americans. It saves taxpayer money and gives innovators new tools to help fuel breakthroughs. I’m proud to be a part of this effort to empower positive change for our government, citizens, and businesses.”

“Taxpayers already pay for this data, so they should be able to access it easily,” said Farenthold. “I expect to see many new innovative uses of this data that will provide more transparency and improve people’s lives.”

“The U.S. government maintains an enormous supply of valuable data that has been paid for by taxpayers,” said Daniel Castro, Director, Center for Data Innovation. “Making these datasets freely available to the public would unlock innovation in both the public and private sectors—spurring economic growth, increasing government transparency, and powering new tools and services to address some of the country’s most pressing economic and social challenges. The OPEN Government Data Act would ensure that government data continues to be open and available for anyone who wants to work with it, guaranteeing that the federal government releases valuable data sets, follows best practices, and commits to openness by default.”

“The OPEN Government Data Act will put our government on track to transform all its information from disconnected documents into open data, freely available for everyone to scrutinize,” said Hudson Hollister, Executive Director, Data Coalition. “Open data delivers transparency for citizens and efficiency for government managers. It also creates new tech business opportunities. Our 36 Data Coalition member companies, who represent over 200,000 American jobs and $1.5 trillion in market capitalization, enthusiastically support the OPEN Government Data Act because they can republish, analyze, and automate open data to create new business value.”

The OPEN Government Data Act would require, by default, the data included at to be available in a machine-readable format to make it accessible to anyone and easily searchable. It also protects privacy and national security information when making federal government data available to the public and requires federal agencies to use data to improve decision making.