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USAID and Open Data: An Overview

As some of you may be aware, USAID published their Open Data policy, and have begun including language in all contracts and cooperative agreements after October 1, 2014 to require partners to abide by the policy.

There have been many more questions than answers at this stage, which is to be expected when any new policy is rolled out. For those of us in the USAID contractor community, especially small businesses, unexpected change and lots of questions do not make us rest easy...

USAID Open Data Policy

Who do USAID's Open Data rules apply to?

All contracts and cooperative agreements awarded on or after October 1, 2014. Many contracts are having these modifications also rolled out retroactively via the IPN.

(from the ADS 579 page 10, emphasis mine)

USAID staff, as well as contractors and recipients of USAID assistance awards (e.g. grants and cooperative agreements) must submit any Dataset created or collected with USAID funding to the DDL in accordance with the terms and conditions of their awards.

This is in keeping with Executive Order 13642 and the OMB Open Data Policy (M-13-13) which states that an agency’s “public data listing may also include, to the extent permitted by law and existing terms and conditions, Datasets that were produced through agency -funded grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements.

What specific data do they want?

According to USAID, they want:

Organized collection of structured data, including data contained in spreadsheets, whether presented in tabular or non-tabular form (e.g. single spreadsheet, an extensible mark-up language (XML) file, a geospatial data file, or an organized collection of these).

Data Supporting “Intellectual Work”

Works that “document the implementation, monitoring, evaluation, and results of international development assistance activities.”


Does not include

What do I need to do for my organization to be compliant?

  1. If your contract or cooperative agreement includes language on open data, you will need to create an open data plan, created with the COR/AOR and the Data Steward for the funding Bureau or Mission.

  2. Any datasets that are identified by this plan as needing to be published in the Development Data Library will need to be published in open data formats (i.e. machine readable) using common structures when available.

  3. You may want to perform an open data audit of your data capture systems and processes you will use before starting the conversation with USAID, to make sure that you are not committing to publication of sensitive data or an expensive data publication method, as well making sure you are already using common data structures such as IATI.

  4. Think about how you can use this data for internal and external purposes. Open data offers opportunities for data sharing among offices and organizations that did not exist before. There may be major benefits to your organization with having this sort of data easily available between teams.

What is Open Data

Open data has two parts - open and data.

Two other key components that are included in open data definitions:

  1. The data has an API to allow a developer to write code that will pull specifically parts of the data they need without needing to talk to anyone (i.e. only data on Bangladesh, or for 2013). 

  2. The data must be free to be used. This means removing any data that might violate someone's privacy or cause a security incident. Remember that open data may be a subset of data that is used internally using the rest of the open data format - to allow internal systems to interoperate more easily.

Big Picture: Open Data

Overwhelmed? Sonjara can help

We offer open data audits/evaluations, creation of open data plans and solution identification for every budget to help you keep in compliance with these new regulations.

More importantly, we can help you identify where complaince with these new regulations can actually be used to improve your organziations performance. 

Give me a call (703 981-9982) or send me an email (sio @ sonjara dot com) for a free one hour overview/conversation on how you can move forward with open data.

Resources and Links

US Government

  1. White House memorandum on open data policy
  2. Data.gov (always updated list of US Government open data resources)
  3. Foreign Assistance dashboard (US Government publication of all foreign assistance)
  4. US Government Github site on open data
  5. International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI)


  1. Open Government Plan
  2. Open data resources
  3. ADS 579 (open data policy)
  4. Development Data Library
  5. Data publication process
  6. Open data presentations
  7. Github account

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