Before you begin an Open Data or Open Government Data Portal project for your entity, stop for a minute and keep reading.  Having been a local government and non-profit IT technical lead, manager and executive, I know how busy your teams are on the everyday items. Firefighting mode is in full swing. Yet, you’ve been asked to create or make your entities data available to the public.

Rather than providing a reactionary response, with no ability to execute on it, let me ask you to review a few items and then ponder some questions at the end.

In your world, there are 4 data personas to analyze: creator, distributor, consumer, and governor.

Let’s briefly describe each in layman’s terms.

Creator (Producer)

The creator function is where we start. It is the person, team, entity that generates the raw data. Possessing data is usually not enough. Data needs to be understood including what it contains and equally, what it does not. The consumers of this data need to have an understanding of it in order to keep from making poor assumptions that negative impact decisions.


Functioning as a distributor of data is like being the book publisher. This function creates the mechanisms for consumers to obtain the data in question. There are many great examples of data distributors online today. (examples further below)


When we talk about data, we usually come at it from the viewpoint of the consumer. This is the function that takes available data sets and uses them for specific purposes. Perhaps a consuming entity is going to leverage a data set in a GIS application, a statistical analysis or simply to package in a more palatable format for further distribution. This is where real value can begin to emerge from the data produced by the creator.


The governor is a unique function. If I use the term governance, you might cringe or say “aha!”.  Either way, governing the creation, distribution, and use of data is important. The governor function might exist in some or all of the previous 3 functions, creator, distributor, and consumer.

60 Minutes to Persepctive

First, take approximately 37 minutes to review the following playlist produced by Texas DIR.


Next, peruse, the states Open Data portal. See how there are both standard data sets as well as GIS layers/KML datasets available in some cases.


Then, take a look at and do the same.

Use the Wheel, Not Reinvent It

The exercise above has shown you that the distrubtion of data is not something your organization has to create. Instead could you be most effective by leverage existing distribution channels and instead focus on the other 3 personas?

With the goal of thinking bigger, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there any data that requires your organization to be the distributor?
  • How would your approach to GIS be different if you did not have to be the distribution point?
  • How would your approach to Data be different if your organization did not have to be the distribution point?
  • If you leverage existing distribution points outside your organization, are you able to provide more and better data for distribution?
    • In this question, ask yourselves, do we provide more value in the creation of data or the distribution? Why/Why not?
At a broader level canwe back up and re-calibrate around:
  • What do our member organizations need?
  • How do you know that?
  • What is the purpose of your team?
  • Is there a better way to arrive at the required results without doing things the same way we always have
  • What things no longer make sense for us to do? Why?
  • Where are we being inefficient by reinventing the wheel?
  • What’s the alternative?
Now, I’m curious. Do you have information that required you to be in the distribution business? If so, let us know. We’d love to understand better.