Many Agencies Miss Obama's Deadline For Openness

Alarm Clock 3 by Flickr user alancleaver_2000
"Alarm Clock 3" by Flickr user alancleaver_2000

According to Doug Ward’s excellent OpenGovBlog, the first deadline under President Obama’s “Open Government Directive” has come and gone with 26 agencies failing to meet the Directive’s requirements. Here’s what Obama is requiring: “Within 45 days, each agency shall identify and publish online in an open format at least three high-value data sets and register those data sets via These must be data sets not previously available online or in a downloadable format.” The deadline was January 22.

What’s more, in many cases what counts as “meeting the requirements” is just lame. One agency took data that had been available in PDF form and posting it as an Excel spreadsheet with headers. Another agency reposted data that had been available since 2004, just labeling it with a more specific timeframe.

The Sunlight Foundation, which focuses on this issue relentlessly (and well), has written a piece recapping what they are seeing so far as they sift through the data. Their take:

As a first step toward making agency data available in more accessible formats for sophisticated users, the open government directive is so far somewhat successful–plenty of data sets that had been available only as PDFs, or had to be pulled down by scraping Web sites, are now there for the taking (we’ll have better counts of this later in the week). But new data sets are not predominant: the major agencies covered by the directive released 58 data sets, of which, by our count, 16 were previously unavailable in some format online.

That sounds like progress, I suppose . . . but a long way to go before we have real “transparency.”

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