Opinion: A data collector’s perspective on the pros and cons of open records

Post Independent (Glenwood Springs): Data is ever-growing. The current rate is exponential. In fact, 90% of the world’s existing data was created in the last two years alone.

As recent as 1990, if you needed to know what year Colorado became a state, you’d probably have to open and read an encyclopedia to obtain the result. Today, a simple Google (or Siri or Alexa) search will produce the same answer in 0.76 seconds. No paper cuts and no lugging around 20-pound book sets.

Every second, over 40,000 searches are sent through Google from all over the world. People are constantly requesting information, interaction, and connection, all of which is provided by searching for and accessing data online. Data is spread far and wide throughout the web, in a multitude of forms. But it isn’t always so easy to find exactly what you are looking for – and sometimes Google isn’t always the answer.

The Colorado legislature is debating proposed changes to the Colorado Open Record Act (CORA) and the role government should play in releasing documents and data in usable digital formats.

As a water data collection specialist, I have spent years behind a keyboard, researching public data and how it’s accessed throughout the web. In my experience, there are three myths when it comes to finding and using public or government data: 1) it’s easy to find, 2) free, and 3) available in a useable format.

About three years ago, our company, Ponderosa Advisors, began developing a tool called Water Sage which helps individuals better understand water use and water rights. In Colorado alone, Water Sage integrates water rights, well, and land data for nearly 2.5 million parcels; more than 160,000 water rights; and data for nearly 425,000 water wells and structures. It is the most comprehensive land parcel and water database in the state and we couldn’t have built it without access to quality public data.

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