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April 9, 2015
Data Transparency News
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The latest:
  • First DATA Act schema published on GitHub
  • USASpending.gov upgrade: recovering bulk download capability
  • Members of Congress call on Appropriations Committee to push for searchable financial regulatory data
  • House Budget Committee urges DATA Act implementation

First DATA Act schema published on GitHub

The DATA Act directs OMB and Treasury to establish government-wide data standards for all federal spending data. The data standards will include both data elements and a government-wide data exchange schema that brings them together. A preliminary list of data elements has been public on the Federal Spending Transparency GitHub site for some time now, and can be viewed on GitHub here.
 
On Wednesday, Treasury and OMB published the first DATA Act schema. 

"DATA Act Schema Model Draft Version 0.1"
 
The standard data exchange, or DATA Act Schema, has two components: a standard taxonomy and a standard format, or “language” for exchanging data. The DATA Act Schema includes the required DATA Act data elements and related metadata, including relationship and validation rules. The DATA Act Schema will provide a comprehensive view of the data definition standards and their relationships to one another. 

More information on the DATA Act Schema (the generic model of the relationships between the data elements) and specific implementations of this schema in XML, JSON, and other formats (also called the taxonomy) can be found on GitHub here.

USASpending.gov upgrade: recovering bulk download capability

Last week, the Treasury Department put up a “refreshed” version of USASpending.gov aimed at enhancing user experience. The site now includes map-based navigation, consolidates awards and subawards, and offers other improvements to help citizens understand federal grant and contract spending. Unfortunately, the user interface update came with unexpected problems, including issues related to bulk data download capabilities -- functionality that is crucial for those who republish federal spending data.

“Power users” of USASpending.gov, many of whom are Coalition members, rely on bulk data downloads to power their platforms. The promise of open data to improve government accountability lies in the ability of these users to depend on the data sets that are available for bulk download. When companies like Govini and Enigma and FindTheBest have access to bulk data, they can build powerful platforms, employ visualizations, and deploy analytics.

In the week since the new user interface of USASpending.gov was rolled out, the Treasury Department has been in constant touch with the companies that use federal spending data in bulk, represented by our Coalition. Treasury has been very responsive to the companies' concerns over changes to the bulk download capability of USASpending.gov. We are happy to report the bulk download capability has been restored to what it was before the new user interface was rolled out.

In addition, Treasury has published a data dictionary to assist bulk download users' understanding of the data set and is restoring the delta files that are used to track corrections to the data set. We're continuing to communicate on remaining issues.


Open data has three benefits: government accountability, better management, and automated compliance. With improvements to the user interface USASpending.gov, including map-based visualization and combined treatment of awards and subawards, it will become easier for citizens to use the website to hold government accountable. As long as the bulk download capability is maintained, "power users" like our Coalition members will be able to continue to provide more sophisticated functionality to their customers.

The current upgrade to USASpending.gov's user interface is just the beginning of the changes that are ahead for the next few years. Government accountability will further improve with the implementation of the DATA Act, which broadens the scope of published federal spending information to include internal spending, as well as external grants and contracts.

The DATA Act also requires - for the first time - government-wide data standards for all federal spending information. Treasury and OMB will be announcing those data standards next month. Data standards will make federal spending information more useful for internal federal management and allow grantees and contractors to automate their compliance tasks.

Members of Congress call on Appropriations Committee to push for searchable financial regulatory data

Nine Members of Congress sent a letter to the House Committee on Appropriations and the Subcommittee on Financial Services on March 25 requesting that language be added to the Fiscal Year 2016 financial services appropriations package.

The bipartisan group requested the following language in favor of searchable financial regulatory data:

"The Committee encourages the Securities and Exchange Commission to continue its efforts to implement consistent and searchable open data standards for information filed and submitted by publicly-traded companies and financial firms. The Committee further recommends that financial regulatory agencies across the U.S. Government take similar steps to update reporting standards commensurate with current available technology."

Signatories include: Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Jared Polis (D-CO), Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), David Schweikert (R-AZ), John Delaney (D-MD), and Rodney Blum (R-IA).

The letter is available here.
 

House Budget Committee urges DATA Act implementation

In its fiscal year 2016 budget, on page 66, the House Budget Committee urges OMB and relevant agencies to make DATA Act implementation a top priority.

"Illustrative Discretionary Spending Policy Options

The resolution aims to eliminate identified waste across all Federal Government branches and agencies. Funding for Federal operations and mismanagement of properties are just a few areas where savings should be achieved. These are the kinds of practical guidelines the committees of jurisdiction might apply in developing policies that might achieve these aims. This resolution also urges the Office of Management and Budget and relevant agencies to make the implementation of the data aggregation and transparency initiatives in the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act a top priority."

(Emphasis added)
 

Member Spotlight: Xcential 


Xcential’s cloud-based suite of law-making tools enables legislatures and regulatory agencies to more efficiently create, amend, manage, track and publish legislation and regulations for their constituents.

Their solutions transform yesterday’s manual, main frame or word processor-bound systems into today’s modern, XML standards-based data platforms. They move the drafting, editing, amending and codification process from 19th and 20th century forms – pencils, paper, word processors and PDFs – to the efficient, rigorous and transparent database structures ready for 21st century challenges.

Xcential helps national, state and local governments around the world answer the call for greater data transparency while dramatically increasing efficiency.

To learn more about Xcential and their transformative legislative technologies, go to www.xcential.com.
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Hudson Hollister, executive director of the Data Transparency Coalition, joins Tom Temin on the Federal Drive to analyze USASpending.gov changes
 
Treasury restores some functionality lost in USASpending.gov redesign, stands up GitHub page for feedback

Upcoming events:

Partner Event: Changing the Culture for Open Data
June 9th & 10th:

DATA Act Summit & DATA Demo Day 2015

Selfie Alert: Hudson Hollister, Coalition Executive Director and Morris Jones, host of Government Matters taped a segment about USASpending.gov this week.

Tune in to WJLA Saturday April 11th at 9:30 PM to catch the discussion.

Josh Mandel at #FinRegSummit


Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel invites local governments, schools to post their checkbooks online for public review (Video)

Mandel, Yost encourage local governments to put spending online
 
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Research Data Group
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Partner
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DataTracks
Socrata

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CGI Federal
Elder Research
Information Builders
IPHIX
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Level One Technologies
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PR Newswire
Socrata
StreamLink Software
uReveal
Xcential

Startup
3 Round Stones
CalcBench
Enigma
Govini
Gov-PATH Solutions

Trade Association
Object Management Group 
XBRL US
 

About Us

The Data Transparency Coalition advocates on behalf of the private sector and the public interest for the publication of government information as standardized, machine-readable data. Data transparency strengthens democratic accountability, enhances government management, reduces compliance costs, and stimulates innovation.
Copyright © 2015 Data Coalition, All rights reserved.


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