April 15, 2009 By Wayne Hanson
"What GIS allows us to do is provide a collaborative environment to understand unintended things that we didn't first get when we looked at the map." -- California's Geographic Information Officer Michael Byrne (pictured)
When California state CIO Teri Takai announced the appointment of Michael Byrne as the state's first Geographic Information Officer (GIO) she said the position was "a critical step in implementing a statewide strategy to more efficiently use geospatial data throughout state and local governments. There is a tremendous value in coordinating our resources," said Takai, "so that we can share data and work toward more common systems to improve health, public safety, emergency preparedness, environmental protection and other services for the people of California."
In a video blog posted today on the CIO's site, Byrne explains that GIS is a process that enables individual layers of geographic data -- representing a specific kind of content -- to be assembled. "It could be streams, or it could be roads," said Byrne in the video, "What GIS allows us to do is provide a collaborative environment to understand unintended things that we didn't first get when we looked at the map. We just saw roads and then didn't understand the housing density or where the centers of economic development were. We don't get the full picture. So GIS in a digital form allows us to combine maps in very unique and novel ways that we had no idea would give us the result that it is now."
Byrne goes on to say that as GIO, his job is to coordinate GIS resources in different departments. Priorities right now include implementing homeland security strategies and to develop policies, procedures and standards so that "state agencies that have centers of excellence for GIS can be really aligned in terms of GIS resource and analysis."
The third priority, said Byrne, "is really aligning the set of business investors, whether it's new funding from new legislative programs, or stimulus money, or other things that are going on in the state that allow for a proliferation of GIS to be aligned along a common theme. We really want to focus on those three areas."