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Machine Readable DataOn May 9, 2013, President Obama gave an executive order to make open and machine-readable data formats required for all new government IT operations.

Exactly one year later on May 9, 2014, President Obama signed the DATA Act into law—the country’s first open data law. The DATA Act furthers the 2013 executive order by requiring all information to be made publicly available in a standardized, downloadable, machine-readable format in one location (

New machine-readable requirements and reporting standards are destined to shake up government agency and federal fund recipient processes.

What is Machine-Readable Data?

Machine-readable data is information written in standard programming language so that it is easily interpreted by a computer or web browser. By moving to this standard, the government can more readily automate compliance, aggregate and analyze data, and promote transparency so spending, reporting and financial data can be processed with minimal human effort. Furthermore, machine-readable data functions across departments and agencies, encouraging open data and breaking down silos.

Section 200 of Circular-A11 lists the following preferred format types to promote machine-readable data: Extensible Markup Language (XML), JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) and comma separated values (CSV).

A move to these formats, and away from human-readable Portable Document Files (PDFs) and word processing documents, would greatly simplify federal data management and reporting.

How Does Machine-Readable Impact You?

Over the next few years, federal agencies will put processes in place to gather data in machine-readable formats.

As demonstrated in the Grants Reporting Information Project (GRIP), this will likely be in the form of online web forms, XML single submissions or XML bulk submissions. The goal is to eliminate paper forms that would need to be re-entered by agency personnel.

While grant recipients can report directly to governing bodies, grant management software can significantly increase reporting efficiency through bulk or batch XML filing. With it, multiple grant reports can be submitted in a single XML file transfer, saving grant managers time by pulling directly from grant recipients’ existing management systems.

Is your organization equipped to reap these efficiencies? A survey we conducted found that 86% of grant management offices still use ad hoc systems—spreadsheets, email, word processing documents, etc. to manage awards.

Embracing grant management technology can ease the compliance burden through completely automated data transmission between your internal reporting systems and funders’ platforms. Check out our Grant Management Software Evaluation Guide to begin the discussion.

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