AFTER a Soviet missile shot down a South Korean airliner that strayed into Russian airspace in 1983, President Ronald Reagan made America’s military satellite-navigation system, GPS, available to the world. Entrepreneurs pounced. Car-navigation, precision farming and 3m American jobs now depend on GPS. Official weather data are also public and avidly used by everyone from insurers to ice-cream sellers.
But this is not enough. On May 9th Barack Obama ordered that all data created or collected by America’s federal government must be made available free to the public, unless this would violate privacy, confidentiality or security. “Open and machine-readable”, the president said, is “the new default for government information.”