ArcGIS Open Data: An Invitation and an Opportunity

By Este Geraghty
Chief Medical Officer and Health Solutions Director, Esri

The California Open DataFest II is fast approaching (March 16 and 17), and it marks a time of celebration and of coming full circle for me. You see, as physicianscientist at UC Davis, I yearned for data to be more available to facilitate my research. My wish would soon come true. In 2013, I went to work for the California Department of Public Health, as the deputy director in charge of vital records and informatics.

This gave me a unique opportunity to start solving the data availability problems I’d had as an academic. Working with a talented group of informaticists in government, we launched the California Health and Human Services Open Data site (see and Now, as Esri’s Chief Medical Officer and Health Solutions Director, I continue to engage with California Open Data by showing how available data can be leveraged in impactful ways by using the power of place.

Open data is a rapidly growing movement around the globe, focused on governments, businesses, health organizations and more, to share the decisionmaking datasets they use to intelligently manage cities, counties, states and countriesor to mitigate health crises and natural disasters. With over 380,000 organizations using ArcGIS to create and maintain their authoritative datasets on a daily basis around the world, we wanted to provide any easy way to share them with the public through common openfile formats and standardized APIs. While Open Data started as a call for government transparency, we know that sharing information can spur innovation and help foster the growth of local and global economies by providing the necessary knowledge to developers, scientists, students, small and big business and the general population.

Since ArcGIS Open Data was launched last year, over 1,400 authoritative organizations with nearly 23,000 highquality datasets have been shared through Open Data sites hosted in ArcGIS. In the US, governments at all levels have created Open Data sites, from cities, counties and statesto national agencies. Typically, an organization creates its own, individually branded and managed homepage/Open Data site focused on its geographic area of interest. But people want to know how can they find more sites and discover more data.

Esri recently launched a new ArcGIS Open Data community that serves as a type of master data catalog. Users can search and download data from all agencies and sites. Powered by thousands of web services, ArcGIS provides a consistent user experience and direct download in open file formats: KML, CSV, GeoJSON and Shapefile. Now, from one location, you can search and discover data shared by authoritative agencies around the world.

All the data in the ArcGIS Open Data community has the same API, so application developers can focus more on how to use and integrate the data into new applications and less on learning or building calls to a variety of unique APIs.

JOIN THE COMMUNITY: We’ve seen the amazing things that can be done with ArcGIS toeffectively change the world.If you are an organization that wants to make your data available, you can simply turn on Open Data to get started. If you are a student, analyst, developer or just a citizen who wants to find your local data,visit and start exploring today!

Andrew Turner, Chief Technology Officer at Esri R&D Center in Washington, D.C., contributed to this blog. 

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