The United States Senate approved an amended version of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (S. 994) today by unanimous consent. Advocates expect the landmark open data legislation, known as the DATA Act, to earn swift approval in the U.S. House of Representatives, where an earlier iteration of the bill passed by a 388-1 vote in November 2013. The DATA Act would mandate the publication of all federal spending disclosures as standardized open data. In many cases, that information is currently locked behind inaccessible document-based formats.
“The DATA Act takes a structured data model that has delivered unprecedented accountability in stimulus expenditures and applies it across all domains of federal spending,” said Hudson Hollister, who drafted the initial version of the DATA Act in 2011 and now champions the bill as the Executive Director of the Data Transparency Coalition. “We’re excited to welcome this bipartisan — and now, bicameral — endorsement for delivering reliable, accessible data about how taxpayers’ dollars are being spent. The DATA Act will turn federal spending information into open spending data – a valuable new public resource that strengthens democratic accountability and spurs innovation.”
The Senate’s final version of the DATA Act places the White House Office of Management and Budget alongside the U.S. Treasury Department in joint control of the development of government-wide data standards, a change opposed by the Data Transparency Coalition. However, the final bill retains the Coalition’s key goals: strong and comprehensive mandates to standardize and publish the executive branch’s whole portfolio of spending information. The final bill also invites the Treasury Department to set up an accountability platform modeled on the innovations of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the DATA Act, because it provides a legislative mandate for many elements of his May 2013 Open Data Policy.
“The DATA Act is part of the growing trend by governments to embrace structured, machine-readable data formats in place of documents for regulatory reporting,” said Matthew Rizai, CEO and Managing Director of WebFilings, which became an Executive Member of the Data Transparency Coalition in 2013. “The move to reporting data instead of filing documents has made it possible to achieve efficiencies by automating compliance reporting.”
“The establishment of government-wide data standards for spending will allow federal agencies to deploy analytics to identify and eliminate waste and fraud,” said Bob Fair, Executive Vice President of Teradata, which became the Coalition’s founding member in February 2012. “The DATA Act’s mandate will speed a long-overdue transformation from disconnected documents into open, useful data – a transformation that will help the federal government better serve taxpayers. And we know this based on our experience helping large organizations across industries, including state and federal agencies, transform their organizations to improve efficiencies.”
The DATA Act’s main Senate sponsors, Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH), will join with the bill’s most outspoken champion in the House, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), along with key executive branch officials at the Coalition’s Data Transparency Summit on April 29 in Washington, DC. Tech sector innovators and open data advocates will work with these leaders to build a shared vision for the bill’s implementation. The Summit is presented by PwC. The Information Technology Industry Council, represented by President and CEO Dean Garfield, will co-host as a Special Policy Partner.