Federal Data Strategy (US0105)
Leverage Data as a Strategic Asset: Publish a Comprehensive Federal Data Strategy Federal data is both a strategic asset and valuable national resource, which enables the Federal Government to effectively execute its missions, ensure accountability, better manage operations, foster economic growth, and improve the overall quality of life for all citizens. By providing appropriate access to Federal data, we significantly enhance the return on the Nation’s investment in their creation. The United States will deliver a comprehensive Federal Data Strategy that encompasses Federal and Federally-sponsored program, statistical, and mission-support data. This strategy will include concepts included in existing principles, such as the protection of personally identifiable information and the expansion of data as a management tool while also informing the development of new practices and action items throughout the data lifecycle. The Federal Data Strategy will be based upon the principles of ethical governance, transparency, conscious design, and continuous improvement.
IRM Midterm Status Summary
“To deliver a comprehensive Federal Data Strategy that encompasses Federal and Federally-sponsored program, statistical, and mission-support data.”
Editorial Note: For the complete text of this commitment, please see the United States’ action plan at: https://open.usa.gov/assets/files/NAP4-fourth-open-government-national-action-plan.pdf.
IRM Design Report Assessment
Access to information; technology and innovation for transparency and accountability
This commitment will develop a comprehensive Federal Data Strategy covering federal and federally-sponsored program, statistical, and mission-support data. The strategy will enable the government to leverage data while executing government missions in an accountable and efficient manner, foster economic growth, and improve citizens’ quality of life. Per the official U.S. Federal Data Strategy website,  the strategy will “fully leverage the value of federal data for missions, service, and the public good by guiding the government in practicing ethical governance, conscious design, and a learning culture.” 
The commitment comes from the President’s Management Agenda of March 2018, roughly a year prior to NAP4.  One of the agenda’s goals is “Leveraging Data as a Strategic Asset,” which would develop a Federal Data Strategy.  This goal’s action plan includes four sub-goals: 
- Enterprise Data Governance (“managing government data as a strategic asset”); 
- Access, Use, and Augmentation (facilitating better access to and use of federally held data);
- Decision-Making and Accountability (facilitating the use of data to support decision-making both internal and external to government); and
- Commercialization, Innovation and Public Use (facilitating data usage by public and commercial ventures).
The value and scope of leveraging federally-held data is not trivial. Nick Hart, CEO of the Data Coalition (a U.S. data trade association) and former director of policy and research for the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, estimated the value of data provided by the public to the U.S. government at $143 billion annually.  William Brantley, Training Administrator for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Global Intellectual Property Academy notes that the U.S. federal government is perhaps the largest data producer worldwide, and federally-held data is a “a major driver of the American economy as businesses use the data to make decisions or blend the government data into products and services sold to consumers.”  The commitment’s value regarding both the scope of federally-held data and that data’s commercial value is evident.
The commitment is relevant to the OGP values of access to information (as it will provide access to federal data, presumed by the IRM researcher to imply public access), and technology and innovation for transparency and accountability (as it will leverage data for government activities and better citizen outcomes, i.e., economic growth and quality of life). Prior to the aforementioned President’s Management Agenda, which informs this commitment, the U.S. government did not have a formal federal data strategy. This therefore represents an opening of government relative to the status quo, with particular emphasis on the four sub-goals listed above.
Regarding potential impact, 80 government and nongovernment participants met in May 2018 to discuss the President’s “Leveraging Data” goal from his agenda. They identified four broad challenges the proposed strategy would address: (1) barriers to interagency collaboration such as complex data-sharing agreements and uncertainty surrounding data ownership; (2) restrictions on data use due to no national standard on redacting personally identifying information (PII) and other legal concerns; (3) confusion surrounding the broader legal framework for using federal data; and (4) a lack of interoperability and data standards, specifically surrounding metadata and sensitive information.  These challenges obstruct efficient, broad, and accountable use of federal data.
However, neither this commitment, nor its presidential counterpart, clearly specify what data is covered or state whether it applies to all federal data or just a portion. Neither do they specify how the government will leverage federal data to improve quality of life or make federal data more efficient and accountable. Therefore, the commitment’s potential impact on access to information cannot be assessed as more than minor. On these grounds, the IRM researcher similarly assessed the commitment’s potential impact on technology and innovation for transparency and accountability.
Given the four challenges identified in May 2018, the commitment’s ability to address them, and the potential monetary value of the data at stake, the IRM researcher assesses that the commitment has a minor potential impact on opening government. The commitment would have a potentially moderate or transformative impact if it provided clearer metrics surrounding its scope, how data will be leveraged, and the range of data covered by the strategy.
If this commitment is carried over to the next action plan, the IRM researcher advises greater emphasis on well-defined, measurable outputs.