APIs and Federated Data Matter in Douglas County

John Thompson is the Data Services Manager for Douglas County, Colorado. He’s passionate about helping citizens and staff benefit from the data the county has to offer.

"We’re trying to make county data relevant to the citizens we serve,” says Thompson. He chose Socrata for a number of reasons. "APIs were very important to us. We believed they were the future of data for the county, letting people actually use it."

"The Socrata Platform and the SODA API that underpins the platform are key to share the data and build apps on it. For example, we had a dataset that was on a person's laptop in an Excel spreadsheet. It was public data but you had to call that person and ask them questions about it. Now, we have that data on the platform, we built an app on top of it, and anyone can go in and access the information they need."

Socrata’s finance apps have also helped the county be more open and efficient. "Previously, financial information existed as a 400-page book that was difficult to look through. Since implementing OpenBudget and OpenExpenditures, this is the most used dataset at the county. It's about 40 to 50,000 impressions a month, maybe just to answer a single question or do a deep dive."

Socrata has opened up connections both within Douglas County, and to connect with the state of Colorado. "It's really smoothed out a lot of the difficulties in sharing data. In a lot of cases, it's our go-to direction. Somebody approached me for sharing data with the state. We're already federated with the state of Colorado. They said, 'We see this as a very hard thing to do.’ I said, 'If you publish it as open data it's already done.'"

He believes in creating structure and standards around the county’s data program, and stay flexible. "Having an open data policy is essential to what we do. But, we have to stay mindful of how our communities change and how our data changes."

Thompson sees a bright future for data sharing in Douglas county. "It's very exciting for me to be on that path, assisting and helping my county, to where data-driven decision-making and data-driven analytics are a part of our lives."

"The Socrata Platform for us is a bit of an ‘easy button’ because it takes a lot of the difficulty in management and upkeep of a data platform out of the workload for us. We can focus on making the data available and what types of data we want to make available."