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Uncle Sam Agrees to Publish 'Largest Index of Government Data in the World'

Transparency advocates win FOIA case.

In a victory for transparency advocates, the Office of Management and Budget on Friday acceded to a Freedom of Information Act request that it release for the first time a centralized set of inventories of the data sets kept by each federal agency.

The Sunlight Foundation had enlisted a law firm to pry loose agency indexes that will be complete this spring. The inventories will benefit information technology managers, FOIA requesters and agency oversight efforts, according to the nonprofit.

“The planned release of the Enterprise Data Inventories is a significant victory for transparency and government accountability, and positions the United States as one of the world leaders in open data,” Sunlight Foundation President Chris Gates said.

“We’re pleased that the Office of Management and Budget recognized that in order for government data to be leveraged to its fullest, the public must know the full scope of the data it collects,” said Sunlight Policy Director John Wonderlich, whose team took 14 months to win release of the indexes. “We hope this will accelerate the disclosure of more data and spark discussion about how to best put it to work.”  

The inventories -- which OMB will release in March -- are being created in response to President Obama’s May 2013 executive order pushing circulation of government data “to promote continued job growth, government efficiency, and the social good that can be gained from opening government data to the public.”

OMB’s FOIA office originally told the Sunlight requesters they would have to go to each of 24 major agencies separately. But after a refiling from the Garvey Schubert Barer law firm, OMB on Feb. 6 sent a letter promising to release the material in March.

In a Monday blogpost, Sunlight staffers wrote that “for the first time, the United States government has agreed to release what we believe to be the largest index of government data in the world.”

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