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The Federal Data Strategy: An Overview

The digital age is no longer a futuristic world, nor is it considered to have reached its tipping point. In fact, it is the contrast and its expansion and evolution will indeed continue to gain pace. As a result of this momentum, it is expected that good data management will then become increasingly essential. This is something that the US Federal Government appears to have acknowledged with its announcement of the Federal Data Strategy.

The Federal Data Strategy was born out of a new cross-agency priority goal to leverage data as a strategic asset, which was announced back in March 2018. It is built on ten principles that are divided across three distinct areas – stewardship, quality, and continuous improvement.

Overall, the strategy is broad and ambitious in its goals and seeks to improve effective and efficient access to data, increase data transparency and oversight, all while valuing the privacy and confidentiality of the data itself. The draft can be found in full here.

Timeframe and comments

In terms of timeframe, in July 2018 a request for comment was launched on the draft principles of the Federal Data Strategy. In October 2018, the final principles and draft practices should be released, with further information expected in January 2019. Ultimately, this should culminate with an action plan for Year 1, which is scheduled for release in April 2019.

The Federal Government has stated that it encourages input from a wide variety of stakeholders, both in and outside of the government sector. So far, it seems as though a number of organizations have made their thoughts known during the first request for comment that concluded in July 2018.

The Data Coalition, for instance, commented that one use case that could be worked into the Data Incubator Project (part of the wider Federal Data Strategy) is the matter of SEC filings. Specifically, how to address the fact that XBRL financial statements that are filed with the SEC currently have too much custom XBRL tagging, which can influence the comparability between and transparency of XBRL financial statements.

Additionally, the Center for Data Innovation made the point that the Federal Data Strategy would be well-served by supporting the passage of the OPEN Government Data Act, which includes proposals for government data to be machine-readable and reusable.

Is progress on the horizon then?

Although the Federal Data Strategy is still in its early stages, there are clearly a lot of ways that it could positively impact the data management and reporting environment in the US, whether that’s through improving XBRL financial reporting and regulatory compliance, or improving how government entities share and use data more widely. As a result, it’s likely that many interested parties will await the Federal Government’s next round of proposals in October with anticipation.

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