3 GIS Policy Trends to Consider

Pinellas County, Florida created a GIS steering committee in 2010.

Pinellas County, Florida created a GIS steering committee in 2010.

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Steering committees, distributed models and named user licensing are catching on.

WASHINGTON — Geographic information system steering committees are only just beginning to catch on in various states and localities, but they’re great for getting executive buy-in on projects with geospatial elements.

The Enterprise GIS Steering Committee in Pinellas County, Florida, formed in 2010 under the leadership of the GIS and county managers. Its members include elected officials and other executives who understand project workflows.

Similarly, Alabama established a State Geographic Program Office in 2017 featuring all 24 agency directors appointed by the governor—not your traditional GIS aficionados.

“None of them know how to use GIS,” Keith Cooke, account executive with GIS software company Esri, told Route Fifty after a Smart Cities Week panel in the nation’s capital on Wednesday. “But what it does is it makes sure the right hand knows what the left hand is doing.”

Last year, Alabama’s office discussed acquiring statewide imagery for departmental use with the Department of Revenue wanting it for financial assessments, the Department of Transportation wanting it for project planning, and the Law Enforcement Agency wanting it for special event preparations. Together they created guidelines for their technical group, made up of the GIS manager and operations personnel.

Under an organization’s technical group should be smaller working groups, possibly using desktop software, who oversee their own GIS data—as subject matter experts—and update it using web apps, Cooke said. Web GIS provides a wider audience with the data and information cities and counties have, he added.

GIS managers are no longer the gatekeepers for all things geospatial in this distributed GIS model. For instance, if the local water utility updates maintenance information on a water line—that data would be immediately available to the fire department.

Instead steering committee, technical and working groups form a consortium that prioritizes where resources go and avoids duplicating efforts, Cooke said.

Agencies need simple, specific workflow apps embracing named user licensing, Cooke added. The functionality allows administrators to edit what content is accessible and for how long, so personnel performing a damage assessment can have access one week but not the next.

“We can assign roles to people regardless of where they are, regardless of what machine they’re on,” Cooke said. “It gives you flexibility in terms of how people access content, but it still maintains the security of the content.”

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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