New Centre County data website offers transparency

To help increase transparency, Centre County government created and published a interactive data and maps website to allows users free access to information.

Nicholas Barger, director of Geographic Information Systems, designed Centre County Open Data, which offers environment, boundary, location and infrastructure data maps with 76 layers of comprehensive county information that can be downloaded or printed.

“The idea here is we’re giving the community, local municipalities and other community stakeholders a one-stop shop for them to come and get data from us,” Barger said. “Basically it’s a data dictionary of the data we have.”

Location data available on CCOD includes that of streams, watersheds, voting precincts, school district boundaries, parks, athletic fields, boat launches, museums, libraries, walking trails, dams and bridges.

The county generates about $700 per year from data sales, but the data offered on CCOD accounts for less than 25 percent of the total revenue, according to Barger.

The decision to offer the data for free was based on the small amount of money the county would be loosing and the increasing requests for specific data sets. County residents often call the GIS office and ask for detailed pieces of data, which can take staff members almost 30 minutes to find, according to Barger. Offering the full data set for free allows residents to navigate the information and saves time for county employees.

Larger data sets such as Webia and county aerial maps will remain behind a paywall. The large data sets and pricing information can be accessed on the county’s GIS website.

CCOD also offers four free applications. The GIS app allows users to search a map for specific parcels of land, but dos not provide owner information. The opioid epidemic app provides a storyboard about the issue with statistical illustrations. The election results app provides Election Day results and offers an archive of past election results. The available land app allows users to locate available land and buildings in the county.

Prior to the CCOD website, the county shared data with municipalities, utility companies and private-sector organizations, but now, Centre County Commissioner Mark Higgins said, residents will be able to look at the data to see what the county has to offer.

“It improves transparency,” Higgins said. “And hopefully allows people within the county and outside the county see what a great place this is.”

Leon Valsechi: 814-231-4631, @leon_valsechi