Open Government Plan - Transparency (Identifying & Release More Data Sets)

III. Transparency (con.)

How Commerce will Identify and Publicly Release More Data Sets

To assist Commerce in adhering to the guidance provided in OMB’s “Open Government Directive” to make existing and new data sets and tools more easily accessible by the public, the Department has established an internal community of Data.gov points of contact (POCs) from each of its operating units.  This communication network supports the enhanced exchange of information throughout the Department.

The responsibilities of the POCs are built on OMB’s guidelines for increasing transparency, participation, and collaboration while providing value to the public and other agencies.  In doing so, they focus on certain central themes:  expanding access; utilizing open platforms; disaggregating data; adopting rapid integration; emphasizing program responsibility; growing and improving through user feedback; and embracing and driving best practices.

Commerce will continue to be a key participant in developing requirements, collecting and analyzing data, and disseminating information to the public for the Federal Government.  As it moves forward in implementing the Open Government Initiative, Commerce is using the POCs to build integrated, replicable processes that allow interaction between data owners, technical staff, knowledge management staff and the public.

As part of those processes, Commerce has encouraged data owners to develop timelines to publish new information and enhance previously published information.  It is improving existing data user tools to allow greater access across all of its operating units and by other federal agencies and departments. 

To carry out its various responsibilities, Commerce must maintain a diverse workforce with a broad spectrum of skills and access to a wide range of information and knowledge.  Effective data sharing at all levels ensures that stakeholders receive services based upon information that meets the highest standards for accuracy, integrity and quality.  To provide consistency across government, communities of practice (COPs) and communities of interest (COIs) are reviewing existing standards and establishing inter-agency best practices to encourage a well-defined, active information dissemination environment. 

Through its involvement, Commerce will emphasize the following:

  • Information QualityA primary concern within Commerce is making Data.gov data more usable through better tools, user-friendly metadata, and sharing how the data was collected and its intended purpose. 

  • Federal Spending Information – The Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration (CFO/ASA) serves as the senior official responsible for the integrity of Commerce-related data posted to the USASpending.gov website.  The Department’s grants are timely and comprehensively reported through USASpending.gov as reflected in the “green” ratings that Commerce has consistently earned from 2007 to the present.  A formal process has been established to ensure that all grant offices are reporting in a timely manner and implementing a formalized data content oversight program.  For contracts, the Department regularly conducts an independent validation and verification of data recorded in the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) each quarter.  Feedback on the results of those reviews is provided to the operating units. Quality control for non-Recovery Act transactions has been further strengthened by processes developed for reporting under the American Recovery Act.  Commerce continues to meet all requirements for publishing spending information on this website and is an active participant in planning for its expansion. 

    The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act requires recipients of Recovery funds to report quarterly on how money is being spent.  All data is posted on www.Recovery.gov  so the public can monitor Recovery Act efforts.  Other reporting requirements include posting program plans and performance metrics, weekly updates on financial status and major activities, notices of all funding announcements, and notifications of press releases and other public information about Recovery Act-related activities.

    To develop processes, procedures and policies for complying with the Recovery Act and all related guidance, Commerce formed several interlocking intra-agency working groups in March 2009.  Taking direction from OMB guidance, it created a team to implement the Recovery Act and report in as transparent a manner as possible.  All reporting requirements are being met.  Commerce has complied with all OMB guidance, timelines and milestones and, in many cases, has played a leading role in inter-agency working groups to improve timeliness, efficiency and effectiveness in reporting on Recovery Act activities. 
  • Citation – Commerce will explore best practices for citing published data to make reference data easier to locate for end-users.  This will assist in establishing the context needed to understand fully the meaning of published data.

  • Intergovernmental Working Groups – The government-wide Open Government Working Group has created cross-agency groups to examine data sets that would support health and green energy COPs.  At Commerce’s suggestion, an additional group has been established to identify information and data sets to support job creation.  This group is chaired by Commerce and focuses on data and resources across government.  As a model, it uses National  Weather Service data, which has created an entire industry based on its machine readable formats.
     
  • SecurityCommerce is using its POCs to verify that information being published poses no security risk once it is released to the public.

  • Privacy Commerce is also relying on its POCs to verify that information being published does not pose a risk of personally identifiable information being released.