Supporting government transparency in Colorado
A Local Business Database and App – Good Intentions, but There’s More Potential
Colorado Senator Morgan Carroll introduced legislation to create a business database. The legislation would direct the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) to create the database. Local businesses would voluntarily be able to register, provide information, and a pay a fee each year. The bill also requires OEDIT to create a mobile app for accessing the data.
Supporting local businesses and encouraging economic development are admirable, necessary goals. Sen. Carroll deserves support for pushing those efforts. But, the methods to achieve those goals in this legislation have significant shortcomings.
First, the state already has this information. The Department of Revenue, the Department of Labor and Employment, and the Secretary of State’s office, already collect most of this data and could publish it online.
Second, the private sector is already doing this (e.g., Yelp and Google Places).
Third, charging businesses to register and provide duplicative information is unfair and unnecessary.
Fourth, and finally, if the agencies just made the data available via an API or even by download from their websites, the private sector could make use of the data with less effort and little cost to government.
A more effective approach would be to direct state agencies to make their data available. For example, check out Data.Oregon.Gov. At no additional charge, reporting requirement, or effort to businesses, Oregon has made business information available to the public and to the private sector. Oregon’s data platform makes all of the things Sen. Carroll is promoting possible without extra costs.
Colorado’s proposal will limit innovation by restricting the data to a state agency that does not have the expertise or resources to create and maintain apps and other economic tools. David Eaves, an open government expert, recently wrote about the economic potential of open data and helped plainly describe the benefits of government releasing more data to the public.
There are experts who can do this sort of thing. Government doesn’t have to. Government just needs to provide the tools and resources for the private sector and individuals to do what they need to do.