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Opening Government

President Barack Obama yesterday signed an executive order to make it the default policy of his administration to make government information open and available in a machine readable format.

With the order, the president took "historic steps to make government-held data more accessible to the public and to entrepreneurs and others as fuel for innovation and economic growth," the White House said yesterday.

The order declares that information is a valuable resource and a national strategic asset, and that newly generated government data will be more accessible and useful – ensuring for privacy and security

"Openness in government strengthens our democracy, promotes the delivery of efficient and effective services to the public, and contributes to economic growth," the order reads.

According to the statement, one of the principles guiding the policy is the notion that "making information resources easy to find, accessible, and usable can fuel entrepreneurship, innovation, and scientific discovery that improves Americans' lives and contributes significantly to job creation."

Decades ago, the order notes, the government made weather data and Global Positioning System information freely available, and since then American entrepreneurs and innovators have used these data to create navigation systems, weather newscasts and warning systems, and new applications and tools for farming and location systems, the White House explained.

Under the new Open Data Policy, within 30 days the chief information officer and chief technology officer will publish an online repository of tools and best practices to help agencies integrate the new policy into their operations; within 90 days several government councils and executives will initiate measures to support the integration of the new policy and to establish a cross-agency effort to track the policy's implementation; and within 180 days agencies are expected to start reporting their progress on putting the new policy in place.