October 10, 2019
Researchers, journalists, agencies, and even members of the public now have an easy way to find important data about Champaign County and the surrounding area. Recently launched, the Champaign County Regional Data Portal is a collection of public data from agencies and organizations across Champaign County and East Central Illinois, including the City of Champaign and the City of Urbana.
Hosted and maintained by the RPC, the portal is designed to be a comprehensive and searchable listing of open datasets published by the RPC, its member agencies, and its partners. The RPC produces different groups of 52 related datasets representing eight topic areas: Children + Families, Disability Services, Energy Assistance, Housing Support, Planning + Development, Transportation, Workforce Development, and Youth. Meanwhile, the City of Champaign offers 33 datasets and the City of Urbana offers 16.
“We hope that the Champaign County Regional Data Portal will promote openness and collaboration among agencies, while reducing the amount of time staff have to spend responding to data requests,” says Matt Yoder, the RPC’s Data and Technology Manager, who manages the portal. “Good datasets support wise decision-making, and we feel that the Regional Data Portal can serve as a valuable resource in that process.”
The Champaign County Regional Data Portal is powered by CKAN, the same open source software that powers the federal and state data portals. This software groups the datasets by organization, allowing each agency to have full control over which datasets are published and how they appear.
“The City of Champaign launched its GIS open data portal in 2018 to meet increasing requests for GIS data and in support of the City’s commitment to transparency,” comments Champaign’s GIS Administrator Roger Diercks. “We’re pleased to have the City’s GIS open data portal included on the Champaign County Regional Data Portal.”
According to City of Urbana IT Director Sanford Hess, “Urbana’s experience with our Open Data Portal shows that direct access to the data informs our residents, staff, and council members, allowing data to both generate and enlighten discussions. The Regional Data Portal can do the same on an even larger scale.”
Member agencies have two ways to participate in the Champaign County Regional Data Portal. For agencies that currently have their own data portals, such as the City of Champaign and the City of Urbana, the Champaign County Regional Data Portal catalogs their published datasets. Staff at those agencies can continue managing their datasets using their current tools and processes, with changes automatically reflected in the Champaign County Regional Data Portal.
Meanwhile, the Champaign County Regional Data Portal can serve as an agency’s primary listing of public datasets if it does not have its own data portal. The RPC will provide the agency’s staff with user accounts so that they can publish and manage their datasets. Using a simple form, they can upload new datasets or add catalog entries for datasets already published elsewhere, such as on the agency’s website. RPC staff are available to support the publishing process and to advise agencies on data sharing best practices.
“One of our goals with the Champaign County Regional Data Portal is to make the process of sharing open data easy for our member and partner agencies,” Yoder concludes. “We hope that publishing and updating datasets can become an integrated part of their everyday workflow.”