OPEN GOVERNMENT -- The Association for Computing Machinery, which describes itself as "the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society,
deliver(ing) resources that advance computing as a science and a
profession," has announced a recommended set of standards for government agencies to use in putting public information on the Internet.

The common theme: Publish the data in a form allowing citizens to analyze and use it readily.

Government agencies increasingly post information—often for
the benefit of individual citizens—on the Internet and through the
World Wide Web (WWW). The U.S. Public Policy Committee of the ACM
(USACM) applauds ongoing efforts to make these data as accessible as
possible to all Americans. However, law, custom and technology have all
contributed to diverse and often inconsistent forms of publication for
the data provided.

Many Internet users are learning to control their online
experience, including combining and analyzing information in innovative
ways that go beyond what the data's original publishers imagined.
Individual citizens, companies and organizations have begun to use
computers to analyze government data, often creating and sharing tools
that allow others to perform their own analyses.

This process can be
enhanced by government policies that promote data reusability, which
often can be achieved through modest technical measures. But today,
various parts of governments at all levels have differing and sometimes
detrimental policies toward promoting a vibrant landscape of
third-party web sites and tools that can enhance the usefulness of
government data.

USACM makes the following policy recommendations for data that is already considered public information.

  • Data published by the government should be in formats and approaches that promote analysis and reuse of that data.
  • Data republished by the government that has been received or
    stored in a machine-readable format (such as online regulatory
    filings) should preserve the machine-readability of that data.
  • Information should be posted so as to also be accessible to citizens with limitations and disabilities.
  • Citizens should be able to download complete datasets of
    regulatory, legislative or other information, or appropriately chosen
    subsets of that information, when it is published by government.
  • Citizens should be able to directly access
    government-published datasets using standard methods such as queries
    via an API (Application Programming Interface).
  • Government bodies publishing data online should always seek to
    publish using data formats that do not include executable content.
  • Published content should be digitally signed or include attestation of publication/creation date, authenticity, and integrity.