Nevada County Uses Open Data Technology to Share Geographic Information with the Masses
The internet allows people to have access to a whole bunch of information that was previously much harder to track down. Commercial businesses realized right away that if they put information about their business and their products on a web site, they could save a lot of money on customer service agents fielding inquiries. Governments have been slower to adopt the internet as a way to share information with its citizens, but as cities embrace technology that allows them to be “smarter,” the flow of information is getting faster.
New Website Provides Access to GIS Data
In Nevada County, a new website that opens up access to local geographic information system (GIS) data to residents and beyond in the form of an open data portal. Dave Forbes, who wrote about Asheville, North Carolina’s push to use open data systems, explains why this is important: “Although local governments have a huge amount of useful information that’s theoretically ‘public,’ actually getting ahold of it can prove challenging, time-consuming and expensive,” he said. “The idea is to bypass formal data requests (and the resulting demands on staff time to compile them) by enabling anyone with a computer or a smartphone to find out instantly what’s available — and access it, for free, anytime.”
What does this mean for Nevada County? The Open Data GIS portal will make it easy for anyone — real estate agents, students, activists, community organizers – to gather information that the government generates about roads, parcels, zoning, anything that shows up on a map. In addition, the portal will contain information about soil analysis, water analysis, and snow levels.
What This Means for Our Community
In practice, this means that a neighborhood fire watch committee can get mailing information for everyone in the district to send them information about local fire prevention efforts. A company or store looking to set up shop in Nevada County can find an optimal location for their venture. Activists can download parcel information perform GIS analysis, and use that information to report on how proposed cannabis ordinances might affect different areas of the county. As GIS Analyst Alex Friant puts it, “The easier it is for people to find authoritative information, the easier it is for them to do analysis and come to a conclusion.”
Friant should know – he built the portal for Nevada County and sees myriad uses for the information that is now much easier to find and download. “It’s especially helpful when researching situations that cross county lines,” he said. “The more counties put their data into Open Data, the easier it will be to get useful information.” He invites all Nevada County residents to explore the GIS Portal, and let him know how useful it is and what information is missing. You can access Nevada County’s Open Data GIS Portal here.