President Barack Obama is requiring new government data to be freely available and machine readable.
[Agencies must] collect or create information in a way that supports downstream information processing and dissemination activities.
This includes using machine readable and open formats, data standards, and common core and extensible metadata for all new information creation and collection efforts. It also includes agencies ensuring information stewardship through the use of open licenses and review of information for privacy, confidentiality, security, or other restrictions to release.
Additionally, it involves agencies building or modernizing information systems in a way that maximizes interoperability and information accessibility, maintains internal and external data asset inventories, enhances information safeguards, and clarifies information management responsibilities.
In other words, data must be downloadable to your computer or mobile device. It needs to be searchable. It needs to be timely and complete.
Your favorite PDF document is not considered machine readable under the federal Open Data Project. You can visit that link to learn more about the tools and best practices of what is and is not allowed. PDF is out, CSV and JSON are in.
What does this really mean?
In this May 2012 interview with federal CIO Steven VanRoekel, Alex Howard asked why citizens should care about free and open data; and he responded by talking about real estate.
When you’re buying a home, why doesn’t it manifest to you the myriad of data that the government has locked up about school quality, healthcare quality, infrastructure investments, broadband, everything else that people really care about when they’re picking a place to live? We don’t do that — we do roof composition and the number of bathrooms, and that’s typically the extent of it.
That’s why open data is so damned important.