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USAID Releases First Open-Data Policy

The new framework sets guidelines for ensuring data are easy to find and access by the public.

The United States Agency for International Development is taking open data to the next level with the release of a new policy that governs how agency data is collected, stored and shared with the public.

The policy, Automated Directives System 579, “paves the way for USAID and its partners to draw from an increasingly robust, data-rich environment to create these breakthrough insights and solutions in support of our mission,” according to a joint blog post by USAID’s chief data officer and assistant administrator for its Bureau for Management.

In their post, the officials highlight key tenets of ADS 579. The new policy:

Establishes the Development Data Library (DDL) as the agency’s repository of USAID-funded, machine-readable data created or collected by the agency and its implementing partners

Requires USAID staff and implementing partners (via associated changes to procurement instruments) to submit data sets generated with USAID funding to the DDL in machine-readable, nonproprietary formats

Implements a data tagging protocol in keeping with the president’s executive order and Office of Management and Budget policy on open data

Defines a data clearance process to ensure that USAID makes as much data publicly available as possible, while still affording all protections for individual privacy, operational and national security, and other considerations allowable by law

The new policy aligns with a May 2013 executive order that requires new and modernized government information resources be open and machine-readable and that data be easy to find and access by the public. The Bureau for Management, Office of the Chief Information Officer, Information Assurance Division/Compliance and Risk Management Branch are charged with protecting data that contains personally identifiable information, according to the USAID policy. For example, data that include research on human subjects may require additional clearance before being released.

USAID is using GitHub to field the public’s data inquiries and error reports. Groups across the world are already using USAID data to better serve their communities.

An organization based in Kenya is using agency data to identify which areas need more agricultural training, according to USAID. One international organization is “creating visualizations of aid flows to specific countries — down to the street corner level — to better understand the scope of our efforts,” the agency blog post stated, adding that “another is promoting additional research by linking health and livelihood outcome data to environmental variables.”

“USAID is committed to treating its data not simply as an output of agency efforts, but as precious development capital that can best serve the global good when widely shared,” the blog post noted.

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Oct 20 2014

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