In perfect tandem with the second major snowstorm to hit the District of Columbia this season, the White House and federal agencies on Friday steadily began to release the second deluge of open government materials as required by the Open Government Directive (OGD).
These materials came in the form of Open Government Websites for each agency in the executive branch, with the first sites beating the OGD's February 6 deadline going live on Friday afternoon. The White House, for its part, followed up with the launch of an Open Government Dashboard to help track agency performance on the transparency initiatives outlined in the OGD.
POGO was hoping that each agency would take this chance to shed light on the decision-making behind the release of three "high value data sets" back on January 22, the first checkpoint outlined by the OGD. Public response to these data sets was mixed: the Sunlight Foundation pointed out that only 16 of the 58 data sets released by the major agencies had been previously unavailable online, and a coalition of good-government groups warned the White House that "repackaging old information is of marginal value, yet that is what many agencies have done with their recent postings on Data.gov."
Some agencies did indeed offer a glimpse into their thought processes with the data sets. The Department of Defense (DoD), for example, explains why each of its three data sets qualifies as high value and what makes each data set new. Here's what DoD says about its Freedom of Information Logs:
WHAT MAKES THIS A HIGH-VALUE DATASET?
The dataset provides valuable insight on the types of information being sought by members of the public from DoD under the FOIA process, making it a useful tool in understanding what DoD operations are of particular interest to the public.
HOW IS THIS NEW?
This data has not been previously released in a machine-readable format and this release will make it easier to analyze.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also offers "underlying rationale" for why each of its own data sets is high value.
We're curious what you think — are these explanations satisfactory? What else would you like to see on the Open Government Websites? Head over to the Open Government Dashboard for a pile of links.
-- Bryan Rahija