26 Agencies Fail to Meet the First Open Gov Deadline

by Doug Ward on January 25, 2010

The Open Government Directive establishes a series of deadlines for agency action demonstrating each agency’s embrace of transparent, participatory, collaborative tools and technologies. The first of these deadlines was last Friday, January 22nd, 2010. According to the Directive ,”Within 45 days [January 22nd, 2010], each agency shall identify and publish online in an open format at least three high-value data sets and register those data sets via Data.gov. These must be data sets not previously available online or in a downloadable format.”

The Participation to Data.gov by Agency page on Data.gov shows the number of data sets each agency has posted. As of this morning, 26 agencies have not met the minimum requirement of posting three data sets.

Participation to Data.gov by Agency

Participation to Data.gov by Agency

Of more concern, however, is whether the posted data sets meet the requirements that they be “not previously available online or in a downloadable format” and published online in an “an open format.”

The first agency listed on the Agency Participation page is the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). They have posted 1 raw data set and 2 tools. The raw data set consists of an Excel file containing information about fiscal year 2008 FOIA requests. This information has previously been posted in PDF format, available at BBG’s FOIA Annual Reports page. This year it is available as both PDF and Excel. The Excel file essentially consists of topic headers and data tables extracted from the PDF and reformatted to individual sheets within the Excel file.

Though the BBG should be applauded for at least posting something to Data.gov, what they did post doesn’t particularly meet the requirements of the directive. However, the BBG data set reveals not as much about BBG as it does about the challenges facing all agencies as they try to meet the requirements and fulfill the vision of the Open Government Directive.

Chief among those challenges is standardizing on common reporting formats. For instance, the Social Security Administration itself has posted their 2008 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Annual Report to Data.gov. Their data set, however, is posted as a CSV file (a comma-delimited file). Though both the BBG’s and the SSA’s data sets contain similar information, they are sufficiently different, in both format and content, that it would be near impossible to correlate information between the two but through a manual process.

The Open Government Directive does hold great promise to improve government IT and bring Web 2.0 tools and technologies to agencies in a useful way. But the effort will fail without a community of interest growing around tracking agency performance, critiquing where appropriate, and finding solutions to the obstacles uncovered.

I will be making my way through the Agency Participation page over the next few weeks, and reporting accordingly.

The Sunlight Foundation is also tracking the Open Government Directive via the Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group. And, this morning, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra announced on the White House blog that on February 6th the Administration will, “launch a public dashboard to provide an ongoing assessment of the Executive Branch’s progress against the Directive.”

Let me know if you know of other efforts to track agency performance, or if you have any thoughts about agency performance, so far.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe Diccard January 25, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Another example of not meeting the requirement for posting data that is “not previously available online or in a downloadable format” is shown in the SEC’s release of “Fails-to-Deliver Data under 10,000 Shares between September 16, 2008 and July 1, 2009″. When the data is so specific as to include a date range in the title and inclusive of a very unique date range to boot, this technically meets the requirements of not being previously available IN THAT DATE RANGE SPECIFICALLY, but the data itself has been available from the SEC’s web site since 2004, just in different date ranges but covering the entire span back through 2004.
I hardly feel this meets the letter of the law, and certainly not the spirit of it.
(Reference http://www.sec.gov/foia/docs/failsdata-archive.htm)

Steven Clift January 26, 2010 at 11:30 am

How many agencies met or exceeded the ambition goal?

I think we want to heap as much praise on the success here or we’ll never get another executive led goal or target with teeth like this.

Doug Ward January 26, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Hi Joe,

The Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group is tracking the progress of the OGD, and they have created a Google Doc on which they evaluate the data sets posted to Data.gov:


It doesn’t look like they have evaluated the SEC’s data yet. They may be interested in your thoughts.


Doug Ward

seo company January 28, 2010 at 6:40 am

Need to extend the deadline. By the way there must be some way to achieve the deadlines

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