White House announces open-government standards for agencies

The White House unveiled a broad open-government directive today that will require federal agencies to make government data available to the public online.

The announcement, made via webcast, directs all government agencies to establish an open-government web site devoted to publishing raw data sets. During the next 45 days, each agency is required to post three data sets--in machine-readable formats--that were previously not accessible online. Agencies will also have to post reports about their compliance with Freedom Of Information Act requests (previously agencies submitted that information only to the Justice Department).

Chief Technology officer Aneesh Chopra and Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra unveiled the specifics of the directive, which was kicked off during President Obama's first full day in office (Jan. 21). Since then, the administration has been gathering feedback, comments and suggestions from the public and federal employees.

Earlier this year, Kundra announced another tool--the IT Dashboard--that breaks down spending for government information technology projects. Now, there will be a similar dashboard for ever agency that shows where the budget is going.

Transparency advocates hailed today's announcement, describing it as "remarkable" and "revolutionary."

John Wonderlich, policy director at the Sunlight Foundation, said the plan is much more ambitious than he was expecting.

"They're making a serious commitment they're going have to work hard to live up to," he said.

There will still be challenges in getting all agencies onboard with the new directive, however.

"There will be significant cultural resistance in agencies to releasing information this way," he said. "This administration is sending a message to agencies saying that this is the new standard."

Update (1:25 p.m.): The Sunlight Foundation has put together a detailed timeline of what agencies are required to do under the new Open Government Directive. It's a good way to keep track of the upcoming benchmarks and how agencies are complying.