Author: Danielle Hillie
Access to data is access to good decision making. Government agencies have historically produced some of the best available data about our state and country. But finding that data and teasing out the information specific to North Carolina can sometimes be a challenge.
Enter LINC, also known as Log Into North Carolina. LINC is an online database retrieval service providing information from a variety of federal and state data sources.
This platform is an initiative of OSBM as part of its coordinating role within the State Data Center. The LINC software has evolved over the last 40 years, starting as a dial-in service offering a catalog of data variables, from which you could create reports from the State Data Center. It was focused on providing Census information, but there was a lot of additional North Carolina data that needed to be shared and users wanted an easier way to access it. In the 1990s, LINC migrated to a web-based service where users browse the data with their web browser.
Today, LINC is an open data format hosted by “open data software.” Instead of manually updating data, the new system allows for rapid turn around and timelier data delivery to LINC users. For example, users can find COVID information released weekly. LINC collects and organizes hundreds of dataset for North Carolina in areas such as education, population, vital statistics, counties, human resources, agriculture, government, transportation and business and industry. LINC houses detailed information for all 100 counties and a variety of geographic areas within the state.
Michele Hayslett, a librarian at UNC Chapel Hill and an active user of the LINC data site, says that LINC is a convenient way to find accurate data and estimates for North Carolina.
“I use LINC for its sensitive data. The thing about LINC, as opposed to the Census Bureau, is once the Census is over, there is the count question resolution process. That is where governments can challenge the counts for their geography, whether that's a town or a county,” says Hayslett. “LINC is the easiest place to get official estimates and the updated official counts and it's useful for the annual population estimates. In order to be consistent with other population estimates across the whole country, they start with the state demographers' estimates from North Carolina but then they do statistical stuff to those numbers to make sure that they're comparable to the rest of the country.”
Hayslett also says the advantage of LINC is it's a simple application. It’s easier than navigating through individual agency websites, which can be really challenging for people who are not familiar with datasets and which agencies produce them.
“LINC is so simple; you don’t have to spend a lot of time learning it and then you can access the information you need. I would say it’s an easy tool to bypass any complicatedness of individual agency websites.”
Anyone can access LINC via the OSBM website. However, users who register with the site can subscribe to get notifications when datasets are updated and to save maps and charts they create on the site. Users can create their own custom maps and charts by adding datasets to the map and chart tools on the platform. There are existing visualizations on the platform users are free to link to, share, and download.
About the State Data Center
“The goal of the State Data Center is to serve as an assistance point to facilitate the responsible use of data with stakeholders across our state,” says Bob Coats, North Carolina’s State Data Center Coordinator and Census Liaison.
The North Carolina State Data Network has over 40 years of partnership between each of the states and the United States Census Bureau to support the local use and application of census data. North Carolina was one of the first four states to get started in the program.
While the Office of State Budget and Management is a coordinating agency for the State Data Center, there are several other coordinating agencies that support specific aspects of data. For instance, the North Carolina Center for Geographic Information and Analysis are the high-end geospatial experts for the state.
“Our State Data Center is robust in North Carolina, with over 40 affiliate agencies across the state” says Coats. “These are either the regional councils of government, or larger public library systems and research universities in the state. For someone in a heavy-duty research project the State Data Center is an invaluable resource.”
For More Information
For more information about LINC, you can contact Bob Coats at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can visit https://www.osbm.nc.gov/facts-figures/linc to find out more about LINC.
Popular Resources on LINC
State to State Comparisons for variables such as education, and employment and income
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