Open and Machine Readable Now the Default for Government Data

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On May 9, 2013, President Barack Obama sign an executive order making the default for government data “open and machine readable“.  Stating that open access to government data will “fuel entrepreneurship, innovation, and scientific discovery that improves Americans’ lives and contributes significantly to job creation”, the order mandates that “wherever possible and legally permissible, to ensure that data are released to the public in ways that make the data easy to find, accessible, and usable.”

Released on the same day is the White House’s Open Data Policy.  The open data policy sets up the principles that data should be easily discoverable, usable, complete, timely, and described.

The new executive order expands on previous government orders making GPS and satellite data available.  In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed an executive order making GPS signals freely available.  Presidential Decision Directive 23 (PDD-23), was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, affecting civilian access to satellite imagery.

The opening of government GIS, GPS, and satellite imagery for non-military activities has leads to innovations in the use of geospatial data.  As the executive orders notes, “… American entrepreneurs and innovators have utilized these resources to create navigation systems, weather newscasts and warning systems, location-based applications, precision farming tools, and much more, improving Americans’ lives in countless ways and leading to economic growth and job creation.”




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