New Colorado Website Re-Visualizes Ways to Interact with GIS Data

The state's new GIS data website offers an easier and more attractive entry point to geographical information, and a mix of visualization tools and service information.

The state of Colorado, which launched its own open data portal nearly five years ago, is expanding its range of available GIS data with the March 6 debut of its new GIS website and data explorer.

The new site, officials said, should help users find GIS data more easily, while simultaneously providing a place for state, county and municipal agencies and other stakeholders to get GIS support.

It offers a mix of visualization tools and service information on its front page, designed to educate visitors on what the state offers in the realm of GIS, as well as areas where it has and continues to put data to good use.

Starting the crawl of information is an interactive story map for the Colorado Resiliency and Recovery Office, showing advances in state recovery made since the historic floods of September 2013, which killed 10 and created $3.9 billion in damage.

There, slides document everything from watershed master plans and hydrologic evaluations created after the disaster to a spidery map of washed-out highways.

Other links take viewers to aggregated parcel data ready for download; to the state’s broadband portal; and to a video about the state’s original data-sharing website, the Colorado Information Marketplace.

Further down, a data services button lets visitors find enterprise data sets and Light Detection and Ranging (lidar) imagery, while buttons for geospatial and database services offers a platform for state agencies to share data, and for users to store data on the GIS Coordination and Development Program's servers.

In a news release, Colorado’s Chief Data Officer Jon Gottsegen called the new website “a step forward for [the Office of Information Technology’s] GIS services and the GIS community in Colorado.”

In an interview with Government Technology, he said that its impact should be felt more deeply, as the site re-examines and re-visualizes existing information, offering more attractive ways to interact with GIS data.

“It’s just a much easier and more appealing way to sort of get into the GIS coordinates we’re providing,” Gottsegen said. “A lot of the data is on the Open Government Marketplace, but it’s another way for people to find it.”

Christopher Markuson, Pueblo County’s economic development and GIS department director, said the site will centralize the state's various GIS-related online products, while eliminating overlap and facilitating communications between agencies.

“It allows entities that are non-state agencies to leverage data as much as possible. An example is businesses that are looking to open a business somewhere in the state of Colorado can leverage data simply by opening the state’s website," Markuson told Government Technology.

As is somewhat typical with new websites, visitors may see the GIS data website add tools as it matures.

Gottsegen said the state works with counties to collect lidar data across the state.

“We don’t actually have tools to visualize the data yet,” he said. “That might be coming.”

In turn, making more intensive use of GIS data is itself transforming the way the state typically works, Markuson said.

“It’s very evolving. The new frontier about what we’re doing here is all about Web services. Transactional Web services are the direction we’re moving," he said. "This website allows us to get that much closer in everything that we do."

Theo Douglas is assistant managing editor for, and before that was a staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes covering municipal, county and state governments, business and breaking news. He has a Bachelor's degree in Newspaper Journalism and a Master's in History, both from California State University, Long Beach.
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