Sunlight Foundation’s 33 Recommendations for Open Data Policies


This morning I was reading a recent blog post by
Laurenellen McCann, Open Data Policy Guidelines, from the Sunlight Foundation. I found the blog post fascinating, and believed this would be a great resource for the GovLoop community to check out, especially if you are involved in Gov 2.0 or open data initiatives within your agency.

Laurenellen’s blog post identifies that there has been an increasing frequency of open data legislation in the last few years. As more data is created and becomes widely available, agencies and legislators need to think of how to regulate the usage of data, protect citizens security, and drive innovation through the available data. Laurenellen states:

“To move forward in grappling with those questions, we’ve created this series of Guidelines for Open Data Policies. We intend this more as a “living document” than as model legislation — a menu of options for what can be contained within an open data policy. It provides sample provisional language packed with detailed explanations and use cases, drawn heavily from the important work of our peers in the transparency and open government space. We found the following resources especially helpful (and cite them often): Josh Tauberer’s Open Data is Civic Capital: Best Practice for “Open Government Data”, The 8 Principles of Open Data, Civic Commons’ Open Data Policy wiki page, The Open Knowledge Foundation’s Open Data Handbook, and Ed Mayo and Tom Steinberg’s Power of Information Report.”

Sunlight provides 33 recommendations for Open Data policies. I’ve listed the resources below. Laurenellen states that the guidelines are not ranked by priority and they serve only as a guide for open data policies.

For a more in-depth look at each policy, please download the link or follow this link to the Sunlight Foundation blog post.

Open Data Policies can…

  1. Mandate open formats for government data.
  2. Mandate the release of specific new government information.
  3. Mandate electronic filing.
  4. Require any public information to be posted on the Internet.
  5. Mandate continuous publication and updates to data.
  6. Create permanent, lasting access to government data.
  7. Publish bulk data.
  8. Create public APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) for accessing information.
  9. Remove restrictions for accessing government information.
  10. Remove restrictions on reuse of information.
  11. Appropriately safeguard sensitive information.
  12. Require exemptions to open data policy to be balance-tested against the public interest.
  13. Create a portal or websites devoted to specific issues related to data publication or specific policy arenas.
  14. Create or explore potential public/private partnerships.
  15. Create contests or other events focused on the use of government data.
  16. Require digitization and distribution of archival materials.
  17. Create processes to ensure data quality.
  18. Create a public, comprehensive list of all information holdings.
  19. Mandate the use of unique identifiers.
  20. Require the publishing of metadata or other documentation.
  21. Require the publishing of code.
  22. Set appropriately ambitious timelines for implementation.
  23. Ensure sufficient funding for implementation.
  24. Empower the creation of binding regulations to implement the new policy.
  25. Tie contract awards to transparency requirements for new systems.
  26. Stipulate that provisions apply to contractors or quasi-governmental agencies handling public data.
  27. Create new oversight authority to review implementation of the requirements.
  28. Create new legal rights or other legal mechanisms to empower the public.
  29. Appeal to values and goals, such as accountability, efficiency, employment and commerce, innovation, civic engagement, and public services provision.
  30. Reference and build on existing public accountability policies, like Freedom of Information Laws, Open Meetings Acts, Open Records Acts, Ethics Protections, Campaign Finance, and Lobbying Disclosure Laws.
  31. Incorporate public perspectives into policy implementation.
  32. Require analytics about the use of open data to be published publicly.
  33. Mandate future review for potential changes to this policy or law.

The list is quite exhaustive, and serves as a great starting point for agencies. What elements might you consider adding? Are there any recommendations that stand out in particular?

This post is brought to you by the GovLoop Technology Solutions Council. The mission of this council is to provide you with information and resources to help improve government. Visit the GovLoop Technology Solutions Council to learn more.

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