White House to release 'vast' troves of data from federal agencies

President Obama on Thursday directed federal agencies to make more data publicly accessible and easier to search, steps he said would spur private sector innovation and increase government transparency. 

The president signed an executive order and a memorandum that was issued to the heads of all executive branch agencies, directing them to collect and create records in a way that supports dissemination to the public. That includes using machine-readable formats and uniform data standards, according to the new guidance.

ADVERTISEMENT
In the coming months, the administration will unveil a beefed up data.gov, the online website that houses federal data. The site will be easier to navigate and contain mapping tools and Application Programming Interface (API) for developers, the White House said.

Also White House’s chief information and technology officers are releasing free tools on the website Github, including one that can convert spreadsheets into APIs.

“Anyone, from government agencies to private citizens to local governments and for-profit companies, can freely use and adapt these tools starting immediately,” the White House said in a statement.

The data initiative is based on the premise that the government’s data is valuable to companies — especially startups.

“Starting today, we’re making even more government data available online, which will help launch even more new startups,” Obama said.

The announcement comes as Obama is set to visit a high-tech company in Austin, as part of the first leg of his “Middle Class Jobs & Opportunity Tours” to promote innovation and manufacturing policies.