Launching the U.S. Open Data Toolkit: Putting Government Data to Work

In our digital age, government leaders, business owners, researchers, and ordinary citizens have come to rely on a wide range of data resources in their work and in daily life. Large datasets power our maps and mobile apps, our weather reports, our financial system, our medical research, and much more.

Much of the most important data is collected, managed, and published by federal agencies, in dizzying quantities., the federal portal to U.S. government data, has more than 285,000 datasets and is still growing. These datasets, like most government data, are particularly valuable because they are published as open data — data that anyone can use, reuse, and republish without restrictions.

While open government data is a critical public resource, it is not always as accessible, usable, or relevant as it could be. Federal agencies face a number of challenges in crafting effective data strategies, solving technical issues, and connecting to data users. Federal data leaders have published a number of resources to help agencies address these challenges and further improve their data programs.

Today our organization, the nonprofit Center for Open Data Enterprise (CODE), is launching a new website — the U.S. Open Data Toolkit — to complement those government resources and help bring the data user’s perspective to the forefront. CODE’s mission is to maximize the value of open government data as a public resource. To help achieve that mission, CODE has held almost 20 Roundtables that have brought together government data providers with their data users to help improve federal agencies’ data assets. The U.S. Open Data Toolkit draws on the findings from those Roundtables, which have included input and perspective from state and local governments, the private sector, academic researchers, and nonprofits as well as federal agencies themselves.

In particular, the Toolkit draws on a series of Roundtables held during 2017 and 2018 in partnership with the White House Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. These have included a Roundtable on Open Data for Economic Growth, a Roundtable on Innovating with Federal Spending Data, and, most recently, a Roundtable on Leveraging Data as a Strategic Asset. Both Accenture Federal Services and Booz Allen Hamilton have been CODE’s Open Data Partners on this program, supporting CODE’s work on this Roundtable series and the design and launch of the U.S. Open Data Toolkit.

The Toolkit is designed to help federal data providers and data users better understand and harness the strategic value of open government data, by providing a number of resources and tools in an easy to use format. “Just because data is exposed to the public doesn’t mean it is useful or valuable,” says Booz Allen Hamilton Senior Vice President Bryce Pippert. “The U.S. Open Data Toolkit is a great resource pointing users to open data policies and programs that are producing value and impact through their focus on transparency, granularity, integrity, and accessibility.”

The Toolkit includes:

  • Policies: Current and proposed legislation, executive orders, and memoranda from federal departments, offices, and agencies governing the collection and release of open government data.
  • Resources: Data portals, platforms, and other informational resources that can help to maximize the value of open government data. At launch, the Toolkit includes 17 examples of federal websites that present data in especially effective ways and can serve as models for other agencies’ data publication.
  • Best Practices: Suggested guidance on collecting, managing, and using open government data, including relevant examples. To demonstrate these best practices, the Toolkit presents nearly 20 featured examples at launch that show how different agencies have applied these practices.
  • Featured Content: Short articles on new data resources and topics of current interest, such as blockchain and artificial intelligence .
  • News & Updates: Reports on events related to open data, including the Roundtables that have informed the Toolkit.

“The Open Data Toolkit provides a comprehensive set of resources for data uses, providers, and anyone eager to discover and unleash the power of open government data,” says Kathy Conrad, Director of Digital Government at Accenture Federal Services. “It is especially valuable as agencies seek to better use data and analytics to gain true efficiencies and reimagine business models and service delivery to achieve mission outcomes.”

We hope that this Toolkit will become a living resource to the open government data community, and invite anyone to share ideas, case studies, and input through the website’s Contact page. The information in the Toolkit can also help inform the Federal Data Strategy — a new, cross-agency initiative to “create a coordinated approach to federal data use and management that serves the public.” As the federal government develops a comprehensive strategy for data management and use, the input of diverse data users can provide essential perspective and guidance.

The Center for Open Data Enterprise thanks its Open Data Partners, Accenture Federal Services and Booz Allen Hamilton, for supporting its work on the Open Data Roundtable series and the U.S. Open Data Toolkit.