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GIS: City IT Leaders Discuss Geospatial Data's Growing Role




June 28, 2011 By

For decades, GIS has been an indispensable tool in many state and local government agencies, and now that it’s being more widely adopted, governments are finding new, unexpected uses. Even with reduced budgets, leaders are discovering that an investment in GIS is not just a means to reach short-term project goals and reap budgetary benefits, it also can be a stepping stone toward the future of public-sector technology infrastructure.

Emerging technologies like cloud computing and next-generation 911 will be most readily utilized by those who have thoroughly prepared their GIS. And other technologies teetering on the horizon, like real-time sensor data integration, will also require a well equipped GIS. A reservoir of GIS data will be crucial for governments that don’t want to be crushed by the incoming technology waves.

Perhaps what’s most important, experts say, is the need to educate officials on how they think of data. Foremost, GIS shouldn’t be thought of as a mapping tool. Rather, it’s the starting point for a data-sharing platform that can flatten government silos and bring information to life.

New Uses For an Old Tool

There has been a move over the last seven or eight years toward [data] centralization, said Jeff Vining, vice president of research at IT research company Gartner. What was once a cumbersome tool, used only occasionally by a handful of agencies, is now being used in a more sophisticated way and shared across most agencies, Vining said.

“It’s a recognition that GIS is an enterprisewide application. In my opinion, having a GIS data clearinghouse, that’s kind of the holy grail or objective,” he said.

Christian Carlson, director of state and local government for GIS vendor Esri, agreed that a well established GIS will ready cities for new technology, particularly cloud computing. Still, despite the widespread use, most cities have a long way to go, Carlson said. “For a lot of people, GIS is simply a technology that’s used to map their infrastructure. GIS is really about the analytical capability of the technology. Maps have become the context to manage the entire workflow,” Carlson said.
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Comments

Barry Wellar    |    Commented June 29, 2011

The Urban and Regional Information Systems Assciation (URISA)has been championing the GIS agenda for decades, and it is very rewarding indeed to see that investment of time, energy, and brains beginning to pay off, big-time, with even more significant benefits to be realized in the the next several years.

Rebecca Harned    |    Commented June 29, 2011

It is very exciting to see the growing momentum for GIS in the local public sector. All information and data can be geospatially-enabled. Its time we equip local government, public safety agencies included, with intelligent data & information via GIS to enhance local government decision making. GIS can give way to true intelligent governance that will build the real community resilience we need in the 21st Century. It is not an easy process but it is feasible if we foster effective collaboration. Thank you Government Technology for putting some light on this issue!


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