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Digital Strategy at USDA


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Digital Strategy Status Complete 1.2.0 Make Open Data, Content, and Web APIs the New Default
Due: August 30, 2014
Status: In Progress

USDA is working to develop, implement, and institutionalize a OneUSDA Digital Strategy that will continuously assess the improvement of digital services and systems that are information- and customer-centric. To ensure open data, content and web APIs are the new default, we will collaborate among the data, platform, and presentation layers to coordinate Digital Strategy activities across agency and functional lines, including IT, web and communication subject matter experts. As such, the Office of Communications Web Communication Division, Office of the Chief Information Officer, as well as Agency web, communication and program offices make up the Departments digital strategy ecosystem.

The OneUSDA Digital Strategy will:

  • Ensure that data is open, accurate, clearly described, structured, machine-readable, and digital services are optimized for mobile use.
  • Establish more agile acquisition and budget processes that support the procurement and management of digital technologies.
  • Develop additional guidance through policy to address open data, digital signatures, performance and customer satisfaction measurement, and mobile optimization.
  • Refine and expand the use of enterprise data taxonomy to standardize commonly used data for business intelligence purposes.
  • Develop open data strategy that addresses the framework for sharing critical information at key decision points throughout the entirety of the enterprise.
  • Identify, prioritize, and modernize existing data that are not currently available to the public.
  • Deploy a virtual dynamic inventory of open data at, populated by digital agency data inventories.
  • Deploy a virtual enterprise geospatial reference repository to promote data quality with metadata best practices, templates, conventions, and other USDA branding standards.
  • Provide guidance and training to data SMEs to develop web APIs, structure unstructured content or information, and to incorporate customer feedback for product improvements.

To ensure future information systems and services comply with the Federal Digital Strategy and Open Data Policy (M-13-13, May 9, 2013) and to modernize existing systems to leverage APIs, USDA will integrate digital strategy and open data requirements and guidance to existing processes and workflows. As such, USDA Office of the Chief Information Officer Technology, Planning, Architecture, and Electronic Government (TPA&E) division will examine and validate the following areas to ensure they include a digital strategy component for open data and interoperability and address the open data requirements:

  • Acquisition Approval Request (AAR) - The Office of Communications (OC) will evaluate requests to ensure alignment with Digital Government Strategy principles and USDA's overarching strategy.
  • Capital Planning and Investment Control reviews.
  • IT Governance Process life cycle reviews - OC will ensure alignment with Digital Government Strategy components including, open data and mobile optimization, at various review gates throughout project life cycles.
  • Enterprise Roadmap - Digital Government Strategy requirements and principles will be reflected in the Department's enterprise architecture and align the work of all IT, content and policy division.

USDA will ensure that all new information collection, creation, and system development efforts will be done in a way that supports downstream interoperability between information systems and distribution of information with our customers. This includes using machine-readable and open formats, data standards, information stewardship and common metadata.

Data Stewardship Working Group (DSWG) members will coordinate these activities within their agencies to ensure application of reusable and common standards, and will ensure data stewardship accountability. Data will be managed as complete and current enterprise assets, and all data are included in the scope of this function.

Digital Strategy Status Complete 1.2.4.The summary of the Open Data schedule
Over the past several months, the USDA has focused its Open Data efforts on establishing a framework to enhance, enrich, and open, to the extent practicable, its Enterprise Data Inventory (EDI) and to ensure the Department and its component Agencies are prepared to identify,
correctly document, and submit to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on November 30, 2014 a comprehensive EDI. In so doing, the USDA has already achieved several internal milestones that lay the groundwork for the Department's future Open Data efforts and position the USDA to meet OMB's Open Data requirements. The following milestones are among the Department's recent Open Data achievements:

  • Creation of an Open Data Council (ODC): The Open Data Council is composed of Executive Leadership from the Department and its Agencies, and is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Federal Agency requirements outlined in the President's Open Data Policy, as expressed in OMB Memorandum-13-13, Open Data Policy - Managing Information as an Asset, along with all subsequent supplemental guidance.
  • Creation of an Open Data Working Group (ODWG): The Open Data Working Group is composed of senior members from the USDA's Office of the Chief Information Officer. The ODWG is primarily responsible for drafting and disseminating guidance to Agency Data Stewards, and for developing strategic and tactical implementation plans for the Department's Open Data effort.
  • Creation of an Open Data Policy Strategic Plan: The USDA's Open Data Policy Strategic Plan initiates the Open Data Policy for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) by providing recommendations for coordinating and collectively responding to the mandates and milestones described in the Open Data Cross Agency Priority (CAP) Goal Establishment draft document and to other OMB related documentation in a structured and timely manner.
  • Creation of an Open Data Communications Plan (PDF, 206 KB): The purpose of the Open Data Policy (ODP) Communications Plan is to convey to USDA administrators, managers, technical executives, and data providers the value of making USDA information resources widely accessible, discoverable, and usable by Federal government agencies and by the general public.
  • Creation of an MS Project Master Project Schedule for Open Data: The Department's Open Data master schedule outlines the Department's initial approach to implementing the goals and objectives identified in its Open Data Policy Strategic Plan. The master schedule provides project milestones as well as a high-level overview of the USDA's process for providing monthly and quarterly updates to its EDI.
  • Creation of an page: The page lists all of the Department's datasets by its component agencies. The page will be updated in the future based on Department directives and customer feedback.
  • Creation of an Open Data Blog: Ms. Joyce Hunter, the USDA's Deputy CIO for Policy and Planning, drafted and posted the ?New Frontiers of Food Safety? blog. The specifically focused was on the first time published Salmonella and Campylobacter. This is part of the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) dedication in reducing Salmonella as seen by the Salmonella Action Plan. Citizens can realize Open Data initiative. Over the next year, USDA staff and leadership will periodically update the blog, which is intended to facilitate the USDA's customer engagement and outreach efforts.
  • Update to USDA Digital Strategy: The updated USDA Digital Strategy page now includes additional information about the USDA's on-going Open Data efforts.

Following the USDA's November 29, 2013 Open Data submission to OMB, the Open Data Working Group, Open Data Council, and Executive leadership will convene to flesh out the details of its Open Data publication process as well as discuss the development of a USDA-specific Open Data Policy, standards, and outreach efforts. Following the meeting, the Open Data Council, championed by USDA Executive sponsors, will work with Agency CIOs to prioritize and oversee updates to the Department's EDI. In addition, the Open Data Working Group, in close collaboration with the Data Stewardship Working Group, will meet regularly to ensure the successful execution of the Department's Open Data priorities, such as ensuring the Department is providing monthly updates to its EDI and properly accounting for its inventory.

Digital Strategy Status Complete 1.2.5. The summary of the Open Data milestones
Milestone 1 - Expand and Open EDI
February 28, 2014
The USDA will initially focus on expanding and opening its Enterprise Data Inventory. To this end,
the Open Data Council, in collaboration with Agency CIOs, Data Stewards, and the Open Data Working Group (ODWG), will continue to work with the USDA's Privacy Officers to identify, prioritize and submit additional public, non-public, and restricted-public datasets to the Department. In addition, the ODC and ODWG will continue the development of an Open Data process and guidance that expedite the publication of its datasets in the future. At the end of Q1, the USDA will submit an updated EDI to OMB.

Milestone 2 - Enrich EDI and Public Datasets
May 31, 2014
Over the second quarter, from February 28 to May 31, the USDA and its component agencies will continue to input into its EDI additional datasets. The Department will also continue to collaborate with its Data Stewards to update its customer feedback and outreach efforts. At the end of Q2, the USDA will submit an updated EDI to OMB.

USDA continues to expand its EDI each quarter. USDA's EDI now consists of 767 datasets and 83 Applications Programmable Interfaces (APIs), with 613 that are releasable to the public and 154 non releasable. USDA continues to improve its data quality by updating the metadata for the datasets each quarter. In November 2015, 38 datasets were revised.

Milestone 3 - Expand, Enrich, and Open EDI
August 30, 2014
In the third quarter of the Open Data effort, the USDA will review and analyze its current dataset inventory, publication process, and customer feedback mechanisms. The results of the analysis will inform whether the Department needs to adjust its Open Data strategy and will help the Department prioritize the submission and release of its datasets in Q4. At the end of Q3, the USDA will submit an updated EDI to OMB.

Customer Feedback

USDA has developed a Customer Engagement and Feedback Plan (PDF, 117 KB)

USDA has several lines of communication open for sharing, conversation, and questions on a range of topics.

Blog: USDA has published several blog posts related to Open Data Policy activities where the public can submit comment or ask questions.

Hackathons: USDA has participated in several hackathons through 2015. The hackathons were held in Chicago, Baltimore, Raleigh North Carolina and Wilmington, North Carolina. For 2016, USDA is planning to support an Earth Day Hackathon sponsored by GSA, and a Bayes Impact Hackathon which will be held in San Francisco.

Supporting Application Developers: USDA has been and is currently involved with coordinating with several application development organization. These include Propel, Code For America, and mRelief.

GitHub: Developers can provide feedback to USDA using the Issue Tracker to ask questions or make suggestions for improvement. When comments are submitted, USDA distributes the query to the relevant agency or program for response or action.

USDA and agency Twitter accounts often share digital and open data related content, which remains an open platform to monitor and solicit customer feedback.

Other social media channels are available for outreach, conversation, and feedback, including Google+?and Facebook.

Milestone 4 - Perform Quality Assurance and Submit Complete EDI to OMB
November 1, 2014 (completion)
Over the fourth quarter of the Open Data initiative, the USDA will work with its agencies to verify and validate its EDI is complete and accurate. At the end of the quarter, USDA will submit its complete EDI to OMB.

Digital Strategy Completed 1.2.7. USDA Public Dataset Publication Process
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) implemented a four step data publication process.* This multi-step dataset review process involves multiple internal stakeholders such as Data Stewards, Chief Information Officers, Privacy Officers, agency legal staff, and Information Security System Program Managers, Records Managers, and Controlled Unclassified Information managers. The purpose of this multi-perspective approach is to ensure that datasets are adequately reviewed and approved prior to release.

USDA continues to improve its data collection and publishing processes. USDA is in the process of automating its dataset review process. To software applications has been assessed and a third is being considered.

Read the full document (PDF, 481 KB)

Digital Strategy Completed 2.1.0 Engage with Customers to Identify High-Value Data and Content to Make Available through Web APIs
Due: August 23, 2012
Status: Completed

2.1.1 Customer Engagement Approach

To engage with internal and external customers, we will use our integrated communications platform to offer various opportunities for input and engagement. Given USDA's broad mission and diverse range of customers, agencies will maintain open lines of communication with stakeholders.

As USDA's Digital Strategy implementation continues, check back often for new opportunities for collaboration through, social media activities like our monthly #AskUSDA chats, and updates from the USDA Blog.

Digital Strategy Completed 2.1.2 Prioritized List of Systems (datasets)
Due: August 23, 2012
Status: Completed


System Name System Description Scope Main Customers
National Farmers Market Directory AMS produced directory containing information about U.S. farmers market locations, directions, operating times, product offerings, and accepted forms of payment. Supports local and regional food systems, as well as development of local economies.

Farmers Market Directory API
Both Consumers, Government, Producers
ERS Web Content and Charts of Note Highlights from our current and past research currently provided in daily Charts of Note available via Web APIs (Application Programming Interfaces, a system of machine-to-machine interactions over a network), and an embeddable widget code. Access the ERS APIs on their developer page and grab the code for an easy Charts of Note widget. External Policymakers, Program managers, Media, Researchers, Education Institutions

Digital Strategy Status Complete 2.2 Completed
Visit USDA's Developer Resources page to find and access featured data or web services from the Department's agencies and mission areas. This page will be updated as agencies make available new developer tools and data resources, so be sure to check back often. Do you have feedback, ideas, or questions for USDA APIs? Use the USDA GitHub repository's Issue Tracker to join the discussion.

Digital Strategy Completed 4.2.0 Establish USDA Digital Strategy Governance
Due: November 23, 2012
Status: Completed

USDA will utilize existing crosscutting teams and resources to collaboratively manage Digital Strategy activities throughout the Department. To clearly articulate the overarching framework and approach, as well as detail broad roles and responsibilities, USDA cleared and published Departmental Regulation 1496-001 (11/21/12) Digital Strategy Governance.

This Regulation addresses the partnership between the Office of Communications (OC) and Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), as well as agency web, information technology and public affairs professionals who all have a role to play in ensuring the success of USDA's Digital Strategy implementation.

The policy addresses the presentation, platform, information and security layers and associated agency or program teams and subject matter experts. This collaborative relationship is key to USDA's digital communication activities to ensure that we are delivering high-value services and systems in the most efficient, relevant and cost-effective manner to our internal and external customers.

OC and OCIO will work together when reviewing digital service project requests to ensure the activity aligns with the Department's strategic priorities and fully addresses the needs of the customer.

The entities involved in discussing trends, submitting project proposals and implementing digital strategy objectives include:

Information Priorities Investments Council
Chief Information Officer Council
Agency Webmasters
Public Affairs Directors

Link to Governance Document: Departmental Regulation.

Digital Strategy Completed 5.2.0 Establish USDA inventory of Mobile Devices and Wireless Service Contracts
Due: November 23, 2012
Status: Completed


Agencies and Offices Device Inventory Status Contract Inventory Status Bureau Code (PDF, 263 KB)
Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Completed Completed 005-45
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Completed Completed 005-18
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Completed Completed 005-32
Economic Research Service (ERS) Completed Completed 005-13
Farm Service Agency (FSA) Completed Completed 005-49
Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Completed Completed 005-86
Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Completed Completed 005-35
Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Completed Completed 005-68
Forest Service (FS) Completed Completed 005-96
Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) Completed Completed 005-37
National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Completed Completed 005-15
National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Completed Completed 005-20
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Completed Completed 005-53
Risk Management Agency (RMA) Completed Completed 005-47
Rural Development (RD) Completed Completed 005-55
Departmental Management (DM) Completed Completed 005-05
National Appeals Division (NAD) Completed Completed 005-11
Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) Completed Completed 005-09
Office of Communications (OC) Completed Completed 005-06
Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Completed Completed 005-18
Office of the General Counsel (OGC) Completed Completed 005-10

We have completed a majority of the contract inventory for each agency, but will complete within the next quarter.

Digital Strategy Status Complete5.3.0 Evaluate Government-wide Vehicles in Alternative Analysis for New Mobile-Related Procurements
Due: August 30, 2014
Status: In Progress

Digital Strategy Status Complete 6.3.0 Ensure all New Digital Services Follow Improvement Guidelines
Due: Within 6 months of release of improvement guidance
Status: Completed

USDA is working to develop, implement, and institutionalize a OneUSDA Digital Strategy that will continuously assess the improvement of digital services and systems that are information- and customer-centric. To ensure open data, content and web APIs are the new default, we will collaborate among the data, platform, and presentation layers to coordinate Digital Strategy activities across agency and functional lines, including IT, web and communication subject matter experts.

USDA has developed a USDA FITARA Common Baseline Implementation Plan (PDF, 964 KB) that incorporates an Integrated Governance Framework and provides the executive teams with a process for reviewing investments and providing guidance to investment managers throughout a project's life cycle. Projects will be reviewed to ensure alignment with digital strategy guidelines.

As a member of the Executive Information Technology Investment Review Board (E-Board), the Office of Communications and Digital Strategy Lead will ensure major IT capital investments follow digital service guidelines through the entire lifecycle process, and ensure that the investment goal and strategy are optimal for achieving USDA's mission.

USDA is fully embracing this new mobile paradigm shift, and is mobilizing our business, transforming our organizations, and modernizing our technical infrastructures to meet the significant opportunities as well as challenges that mobility brings to the work place. As the adoption and use of mobile devices are accelerating within our department and customer base, USDA is staying on the forefront of both the business requirements as well as technical trends with a well thought out Mobile Computing Implementation Plan that takes advantage of the transformational opportunities in mobile business delivery for our agencies and customers.

USDA-OCIO will be leading this effort with oversight from the Chief Information Officer (CIO). The implementation will be governed through the Mobile Computing steering committee in coordination with the CIO council.

Responding to today's mobile opportunities, architecting for tomorrow's cloud environments, and integrating them with USDA's legacy infrastructures are all daunting challenges. The USDA Mobile Computing Program is focused on the following three key objectives:

  • Procuring and managing heterogeneous commercial devices, applications, and data in smart, secure and affordable ways;
  • Leveraging existing enterprise systems in an integrated manner with new mobile solutions to minimize capital expenditures and maximize our return on investments;
  • Implementing end-to-end mobile services that streamline procurement, management and operational processes while improving IT management and visibility, gaining control, and cutting costs

At the end of the day, everything must appear "seamless" to end-users while delivering significant business value in a secure manner.

The following key objectives for USDA for fiscal year 2013 will ensure foundational capabilities to allow our mobile customers access to our information and services, and to secure, manage and support mobile devices enabling our workforce to conduct business anytime, anywhere, on any device:

  • Establish a Mobile Program Management Office
  • Establish a Mobile Computing Steering Committee
  • Publish a Mobile Computing PMO Website
  • Develop and publish a USDA Mobile Computing policy and research and develop a BYOD policy
  • Deploy Mobile infrastructure solutions, including a 2nd generation Mobile Device Management, a Mobile Acquisition Management, and Pilot BYOD solutions
  • Publish a Manual component in DR 1496-001 Digital Strategy Governance regarding Mobile Application Management and Development process, standards and marketing approach.

Digital Strategy Completed 7.1.0 Engage with Customers to Improve Priority Customer-Facing Services for Mobile Use
Due: August 23, 2012
Status: Completed

7.1.1 Customer Engagement Approach

To engage with internal and external customers, we will use our integrated communications platform to offer various opportunities for input and engagement. Given USDA's broad mission and diverse range of customers, agencies will maintain open lines of communication with stakeholders.

As USDA's Digital Strategy implementation continues, check back often for new opportunities for collaboration through, social media activities like our monthly #AskUSDA chats, and updates from the USDA Blog.

Digital Strategy Completed 7.1.2 Prioritized List of Services
Due: August 23, 2012
Status: Completed


Service Name System Description Scope Main Customers
USDA Newsroom The USDA Newsroom holds official news releases, statements, transcripts and speeches released by the Department. Both Media, Industry, Congress, Businesses
Meat and Poultry Inspection Directory The Meat, Poultry and Egg Product Inspection Directory is a listing of establishments that produce meat, poultry, and/or egg products regulated by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) pursuant to the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, and the Egg Products Inspection Act.

Android App
Both USDA employees, farmers, producers, ranchers, consumers, businesses, government agencies
Office Information Profile System USDA Service Centers are designed to be a single location where customers can access the services provided by the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Rural Development agencies. This tool provides the address of a USDA Service Center and other Agency offices serving your area along with information on how to contact them.

To view the mobile optimized Service Center Locator, please visit the Service Center Locator.
Both All stakeholders

Digital Strategy Status Complete 7.2.0 Optimize Priority Customer-Facing Services for Mobile Use
Due: May 23, 2013
Status: Completed

Digital Strategy Status Complete 8.2.0 Implement Performance and Customer Satisfaction Measuring Tools on .gov Websites
Due: January 23, 2013
Status: Completed

In March 2012, USDA completed an enterprise implementation of Google Analytics. The Office of Communications is working with agencies to implement the Digital Analytics Program code on subdomain agency and priority initiative websites by June 5, 2013. USDA is establishing a formal analytics program that includes regular reporting and evaluation, recommendations, and digital communication improvements based on available data.

USDA's Office of Communications is conducting a comprehensive web content analysis to evaluate high-value content and pages, improve search optimization and identify opportunities for mobile optimization. Web traffic and search data provide feedback to better organize and deliver popular topics, web content and tasks that are important to our customers. Since launching the mobile website in April 2013, we are evaluating analytics to enhance mobile content.

Through core communications, the agency is providing digital analytics training and resources to USDA's agencies and offices to enable more detailed program-level analysis, and data-driven recommendations to improve delivery of digital information and services. The digital analytics program conducts regular analytics and impact reporting for USDA's web and social media activities.

We'd love to hear your feedback about USDA's Digital Strategy progress as well as any ideas or suggestions you may have to improve our delivery of programs and services. Leave us a comment on our blog, add to our GitHub Issue Tracker, or connect with us on our official social media channels.