The bicameral, bipartisan Open Public Electronic and Necessary (“OPEN”) Government Data Act will not cost taxpayers a dime, according to new scoring analysis from the Congressional Budget Office.

The bill, which was moved to the Senate floor by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee back in May, is closely modeled on President Barack Obama’s 2013 Open Data policy. If enacted, it would require all federal agencies publish their data in a machine-readable, open and nonproprietary format and to use open licenses.

The bill also directs agencies to find innovative uses of their collected data and to adopt consistent and best data practices for open data, all of which will be housed on the federal website Not only will bill modernize our agencies, but make it easier for citizens to read about how their agencies operate without having to go to several different websites.

Most importantly, the bill will help taxpayers discover how and where their money is being spent. This could help to avoid costly mishaps like the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal of 2014. Due to the tremendous caseload, many patients were not being seen or were forced to wait longer than the mandated 14-30 day target. Many patients died while on the waiting list. This scandal could have been avoided if the VA’s data was available for citizens and lawmakers to scrutinize.

Critics of the bill often have said, in effect: “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But the proprietary data universal numbering system (DUNS) administered by Duns & Bradstreet Inc. is broken. Any taxpayer who wants to see grantee or contractor information currently must purchase a license to use DUNS. If the government is going to be transparent, it must switch to a nonproprietary identifier. As Hudson Hollister, executive director of the Data Coalition wrote in an op-ed for The Hill, there already is nonproprietary alternative in place for DUNS called the Legal Entity Identifier, or LEI:

The LEI has already been adopted by government agencies in dozens of countries….A study by the General Services Administration’s 18F technology team shows that the DUNS Number could be replaced with a temporary code with the same number of digits, linked to the LEI – which means no expensive system upgrades.

Back in May, R Street joined with a broad coalition that includes tech companies, open-data advocates and free-market groups to press the case for reform. By setting a presumption that the government must use nonproprietary data standards, the OPEN Government Data Act will eliminate monopolies like the DUNS system and give taxpayers full access to download and use the data that they’ve already paid for.

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