Third Open Government National Action Plan – Coming Attractions for Open Data Enthusiasts

Posted by Amy Deora on 11/2/15 11:51 AM

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On October 27th, 2015, the White House released the third Open Government National Action Plan (NAP). This is an update of the first and second plans, published in 2011 and 2013, respectively. The goal of the Open Government NAP is to make government more transparent, responsive, and accessible to all Americans. 

This third Open Government NAP represents a significant expansion of previous plans and reinforces the Obama Administration’s focus on making open data a cornerstone of open government. The new NAP includes 40 new or expanded initiatives, many of which promise to make new open data resources available to the public. Some highlights of the plan's commitment to creating new open data resources include the following:

A Public Listing of Every Address in the USA

Right now, neither the U.S. Postal Service nor any other agency holds a complete list of all addresses in the U.S., though many different agencies hold pieces of address data in different formats. The Department of Transportation will spearhead an effort to develop (a) an open standard for address information and (b) a data sharing strategy for sharing address information without names or other personally identifiable information (PII).

Potential users of this address data include first responders and other emergency service providers. Right now, many local police and fire departments actually have to buy address lists from the same direct marketing firms that sell your address to retailers who want to mail you catalogs. In addition, these data can also provide a more detailed view of neighborhoods and cities to local governments and city planners that can aid in infrastructure planning and community development.  (And, yes, this will also probably be useful to marketers that want to mail you even more catalogs.)

Automatic Release of Nonprofit tax Filings

Nonprofit tax filings are already legally public record. However, because they contain PII, providing this type of information to the public has, until recently, involved a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The problem? The IRS released this information, via FOIA, in the form of 40 million pages of unsearchable PDF documents. The IRS will now automatically remove PII from incoming electronic filings and release electronic nonprofit tax filings directly in a searchable format. In June 2015, the IRS stated that their goal is to start releasing these data in early 2016.  

Workforce Data Initiative

One of the most forward-looking open data initiatives is the Workforce Data Initiative. Through this initiative, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) will work with the Department of Labor, private firms, and local workforce development agencies to develop a standardized data schema for private job post data, as well as public information about the workforce. Such a schema can be used, for example, to facilitate the linking of data from jobs postings on private sites (e.g. LinkedIn or to local workforce information and census data. This will create a wealth of data resources not only for job seeke rs, but also for agencies involved in workforce development. Development of such data resources will allow local workforce agencies to more clearly recognize the particular skills gaps in their local areas, even down to the zip code level.

You can read the full text of the Open Government NAP here.

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