Navigator Award Finalists: Jim Sparks and Team, Indiana Geographic Information Office


Connecting state and local government leaders

Leading a state effort to successfully aggregate datasets from all of Indiana’s 92 counties.

This is the 46th in a series of profiles on the 50 finalists for Route Fifty’s Navigator Awards program. The first 10 finalists were from the Government Allies and Cross-Sector Partners category. Finalists 11-20 were from the Agency and Department Leadership category. Finalists 21-30 were from the Executive Leadership category. Finalists 31-40 were from the Next Generation category. Finalists 41-50 are from the Data and IT Innovators category. Explore our complete list of 50 finalists.

Where does one jurisdiction end and another begin? Where is a particular parcel boundary? Our physical landscape isn’t universally marked off with boundary lines. The data about those boundary lines—which help determine property taxes, among many other government needs—are managed at the local level. As Indiana’s geographic information officer, Jim Sparks, has to obtain county datasets for the state’s geodata portal and and other mapping needs.

But those local datasets aren’t always of high quality or easily sharable across jurisdictional lines.

A Navigator Award nomination submission for Sparks and his team at the Indiana Geographic Information Office explains the challenge:

Often the data is unstandardized, fragmented, and contains duplicate information, making the sets less than ideal for downloading and expressing in web maps as reliable information. As a data manager, Sparks could have demanded that all Indiana counties provide meticulous, stringently standardized data. But, realistically, that data would never materialize in the form that deserved the “authoritative” label. He needed to draft a data requirements initiative that ensured the quality of county datasets while also reducing the burden on counties who often don’t have the time or resources to deliver data in perfect shape.

Working with Esri’s ArcGIS technology, Sparks was able to “translate data schemas into one common statewide schema, reducing the burden on counties to fix data on their end,” the submission continues.

That common data model laid a foundation for all 92 counties plus the state’s partners at the Indiana Geological Survey and Indiana University. And this effort made it easier for counties to import and organize their own local data.

Getting all of Indiana’s 92 counties to move in this direction together is an impressive effort and Route Fifty is pleased to include Sparks and his team as Navigator Award finalists.

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

NEXT STORY: Navigator Award Finalists: Scott Mayers and Team, Louisiana Secretary of State IT Division