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How Data is Presented Matters: Arizona

While working on the State Agency Databases Across the Fifty States project updating Arizona databases, I ran across this resource:

ADWR Imaged Records Database – Searchable database of digitized records, including: Well Registry, Statement of Claiment, Surface Water Files, Groundwater Authority Files, among others. This database has a number of technical hurdles: Windows Only, Internet Explorer Only, Javascript enabled, PowerWeb ActiveX viewer. The plug-in is free, but Windows Vista and Windows 7 users need to follow an illustrated, six page MS Word document to install the plugin.

I don’t think this is a deliberate attempt on Arizona’s part to discourage access to records, but it does illustrate that there is much more to providing access to public records than simply putting them online. Ideally an agency considers the formats that citizens are likely to use and uses technologies that require low levels of involvement from users. Or, failing that, posting the data in an easy to manipulate format (spreadsheets, xml, pdf, etc) that other people and organizations can use to provide better access.

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