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WELCOME CONTENTS About GovLooP - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 4 Executive SummarY - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5 Benefits of GIS - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 6 5 Overarching Benefits of GIS Cost Savings and Increased Efficiency Improved Decision Making Increased Communication Better Recordkeeping Managing Geographically 5 Strategies for GIS Implementation GIS Runs on Data Integrate Your Team Integrate Your Processes Train Accordingly Make Your Business Case It’s Not Just for Programmers

Transforming Emergency Management with GIS - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 10 GIS In Focus: Mobile and Larimer County How GIS is Used in Emergency/Disaster Management GIS to Assist With Planning and Community Analysis Identification of Data Collaboration with Field Operations Situational Awareness Prepare for a Crisis Respond Efficiently Recover Proactively ArcGIS as a System for Emergency/Disaster Management

Survey In Focus: What’s Your Greatest GIS Challenge? - - - - - - - - - - - - 16 Restoration and Sustainability with GIS - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 18 Planning Maintenance and Restoration GIS In Focus: The National Forest Service


Response GIS In Focus: US Fish and Wildlife More Data, Better Planning

Mapping for Crime Reduction in Communities - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 22 Best Practice: Enhance Traditional Practices Best Practice: Combine Traditional and Non-Traditional Data to Target Crime GIS In Focus: Ogden, Utah Best Practice: Provide Public Access to Data GIS In Focus: Shelby, North Carolina Best Practice: Targets Deployment of Limited Resources with Predictive Modeling GIS In Focus: Columbia, North Carolina

Investing in Healthy Neighborhoods Through Emerging Technology - - - - - 28 Understanding the Context GIS In Focus: Department of Agriculture More Informed Decision-Making GIS In Focus: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Coordinating Across Organizations GIS In Focus: USAID A Promising Future

Building the Base Map for Citizen Engagement - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 32 Step 1: Begin with Authoritative, High Value Data GIS In Focus: Step 2: Push Data to Citizens GIS In Focus: Chicago’s Crime Maps Step 3: Allow Citizen Analysis GIS In Focus: Chesapeake Bay Restoration Step 4: Create a Citizen Feedback Loop GIS In Focus: Montgomery County, Maryland Step 5: Update Authoritative Data GIS In Focus: City of Glendale, California Step 6: Increase Operational Awareness

Survey in Focus: How do you see agencies leveraging GIS in 5 years? - - - - - - 40 GIS Resources - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 42 GovLoop Blogs Esri Resources Federal Government Case Studies State Government Local Governments




ABOUT GOVLOOP Location GovLoop is headquartered in Washington D.C with a team of dedicated professionals who share a commitment to connect and improve government.

GovLoop 734 15th St NW, Suite 500 Washington, DC 20005 Phone: (202) 407-7421 Fax: (202) 407-7501

Our mission is to “connect government to improve government.� GovLoop aims to inspire public sector professionals by serving as the knowledge network for government. GovLoop connects nearly 60,000 members, fostering cross-government collaboration, solving common problems and advancing government careers. The GovLoop community has been widely recognized across multiple sectors as a core resource for information sharing among public sector professionals. GovLoop members come from across the public sector; including federal, state, and local public servants, industry experts, as well as non-profit, associations and

academic partners. In brief, GovLoop is the leading online source for addressing public sector issues. In addition to being an online community, GovLoop works with government experts and top industry partners to produce valuable resources and tools, such as guides, infographics, online trainings, educational events, and a daily podcast with Chris Dorobek, all to help public sector professionals do their jobs better. GovLoop also promotes public service success stories in popular news sources like the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Government Technology, and other industry publications.


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY “A geographic information system (GIS) integrates hardware, software, and data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information. GIS allows us to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports, and charts. GIS helps you answer questions and solve problems by looking at your data in a way that is quickly understood and easily shared.” – Esri In the report, Maps Improve Gov 2.0, Esri President Jack Dangermond states, “Citizens become much more engaged when a map shows them what’s happening in their own neighborhoods. GIS makes that possible. People easily understand maps, which leads to better discussion around an issue. With GIS, citizens can see how government is performing and use that information for better decision-making,” he continues, “GIS allows data to be analyzed, shared and discussed in ways that were never possible before.” At GovLoop, our mission is to share best practices, facilitate knowledge sharing, and connect government employees. This report is at the heart of our mission. This report serves as a collection of case studies, best practices, and resources for the GIS community. In this report, we have attempted to show the power and value of GIS for government entities. We have decided to focus on five strategic areas for GIS in government: emergency management, citizen engagement, health and human services, environmental policy and crime prevention. As part of the research process for this guide, we

reached out to GovLoop members to take part in a survey. Participants were asked to discuss their greatest challenges with GIS, highlight best practices, share interesting case studies, and describe what they believe the future of GIS looks like. The results of the survey are discussed throughout this report and provide first hand insights on GIS from those in the trenches. As one respondent noted, “GIS provides spatial awareness leading to information empowerment – [it’s] moving our language into spatial dimensions.” GIS now extends across government and is no longer accessible to only programmers and coders. There is tremendous value in integrating GIS with mission-oriented programs to realize its many benefits. This report is by no means a finished project. This guide is intended to point you to the proper resources, spur discussions on GovLoop, and help build community awareness on GIS. Please be sure to visit GovLoop and engage with the community, as we hope to continue a dynamic conversation through GovLoop’s blogs, forums and discussions.




BENEFITS OF GIS “GIS is a technology which is about condensing down all of our data, all of our information into a language that is understood by everyone.” - Jack Dangermond, President and Founder of Esri

Geographic information systems (GIS) allow an organization to display enterprise information geographically. GIS integrates seemingly disparate data, software, and hardware to display information visually. GIS allows government entities to understand the complexity of projects they are working on and reveal new relationships, patterns, and trends through maps and reports. A respondent from GovLoop’s GIS survey commented, “There are so many things that GIS can provide. Detailed maps, ability to perform analysis for specific questions, ability to provide information quickly, especially in emergency situations.” The respondent added, “most people are visual and as it has been said ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’; getting information to the citizen in a way they can

understand easily” is part of the utility of GIS software. GIS has been used to map locations of infrastructure, resource quantities, population densities, and changes in communities. A survey participant cited several additional benefits, namely “Identifying relationships and trends that aren’t always clear in graphs, charts, and spreadsheets. I never underestimate the power of the ‘where’ aspect of data.” Throughout the guide, there are many case studies highlighting how GIS can be applied to different areas of government to realize these benefits. Recently, data visualization has been gaining a lot of traction in government. As the open data


movement progresses and raw data is made available in a variety of formats, the data needs to be presented in a way users can easily interpret. For some, the raw data is quite useful for building applications and supporting systems; for others, the need is to quickly understand data visually. One of survey participants highlighted this need, stating, “The benefits are almost unlimited and as the tools in GIS expand, so do the uses for it. People, especially in today’s world, are very visual. GIS not only provides those visuals but it solves problems. Sorting through spreadsheets makes it hard to detect patterns but looking at it through GIS begins to make sense of where and why.”

5 Overarching Benefits of GIS In addition to user-identified benefits, Esri presented five overarching benefits for GIS, along with accompanying illustrative case studies. Below, we have highlighted these five benefits, providing a context for how GIS can be leveraged by agencies across government. Cost Savings and Increased Efficiency One of the first benefits identified is cost savings and increased efficiency. GIS can be used to find new efficiencies within a government agency,

especially in terms of operational expenses. A great case study comes from the City of Woodland, which found new efficiencies using GIS to cut costs on fleet schedules, saving on fuel and labor costs. A GovLoop survey respondent noted this benefit as well, stating that GIS assists cities in “Providing better municipal services at a lower cost, saving the city money.” Improved Decision Making Improved decision-making is another benefit of integrating GIS with enterprise data. Across many areas of governance, GIS can improve decision-making by helping leaders to understand and visualize complex data and their relationships. A survey respondent stated, “It turns reams of spreadsheets and lists of data into a visual tool that is understandable by many.” Increased Communication A third benefit that can be realized within agencies is increased communication among teammates. GIS and maps allow people to communicate with a new medium, also allowing interdisciplinary communication across the agency. Esri states, “GISbased maps and visualizations greatly assist in understanding situations and in storytelling. They are a type of language

that improves communication between different teams, departments, disciplines, professional fields, organizations, and the public.” Better Recordkeeping Better recordkeeping is an additional benefit of GIS. Government agencies collect large volumes of data and records, and GIS is one of the many tools that agencies use to help improve recordkeeping. Esri states, “GIS provides a strong framework for managing these types of records with full transaction support and reporting tools.” Montana’s GIS-Based Cadastre Layered with Riches is a case study provided by Esri to illustrate how GIS facilitates improved recordkeeping. Managing Geographically Finally, managing geographically is the distinguishing benefit of GIS. Esri states, “GIS is becoming essential to understanding what is happening and what will happen in geographic space. Once we understand, we can prescribe action. This new approach to managing geographically is transforming the way that organizations operate.” Kuwait University is another great case study, exploring how the University uses GIS to design and build as they embarked on a multibillion-dollar expansion project.



8. These five overarching benefits of GIS are seen in agencies across departments and levels within government.

5 Strategies for GIS Implementation The GIS case studies throughout this report offer many lessons learned for the GIS community. Through the case studies and resources provided, five lessons learned and strategies emerge that can be immediately implemented within an agency. Most agencies that have a GIS initiative have thought through these elements, but it never hurts to take a step back and critically evaluate your current initiatives. GIS Runs on Data In order to fully leverage GIS, the proper data must be accessible, shared and integrated with GIS software. One of survey respondents stated: “Maps, maps, maps. All they ever talk about are maps. Let’s talk about data. Let’s talk about real analysis where we’re taking disparate data sets and doing the analysis to turn them into readily consumable information that may or may not have a spatial component. A lot of people forget that to really get into GIS these days you have to be very conversant regarding database software

like Oracle or SQL Server. That’s where the really work is happening. You better be thinking about web development as well. Silverlight, FLEX, and HTML5 are the tools of choice regarding the integration of GIS and web-based technologies. Even small-scale local governments are pushing GIS services online. Everyone can make their own maps, do their own analysis, and even create their own data. And they want to do it on their phones and tablets, not on some 12lbs notebook. And it is becoming all about development. GIS people used to make maps or other information products and serve that to consumers. Now we create apps and services for the user, who in turn creates their own maps or information products.” Integrate Your Team The cloud and GIS is integral to improved collaboration. GIS works when all the stakeholders can access information and are engaged in the process. This is no different than any other program, tool, or process for an organization. Be sure that the team has bought into the GIS initiative, and has access to all the right information. One of the survey respondents stated, “In an inherently spatial agency like mine, location has the power to provide the necessary common denominator for diverse

interests.” Another participant followed up, stating, “All employees in your organization need to understand their corporate/ agency mission and identify key information categories that are of highest priority to collect uniformly across the organization and who the subject matter experts are for each category.” Integrate Your Processes Integration is key, and with GIS, it is critical that data management and data collection are integrated with GIS. A survey respondent stated, “I think that the greatest benefit is the ability to obtain business intelligence by looking at corporate or agency data in a new way (helps the brain process these complex associations or relationships much faster when it is part of a visual display). You can see trends and patterns across a geographic area, which might be harder to determine if forced to look at separate charts or graphs (based on tabular data alone).” Within the survey, we asked how GIS officials were integrating GIS into existing processes; one fascinating answer explained, “We are currently designing our GIS and are relying on our current systems to make the most use of it as well as leveraging those current systems to assist in getting


GIS up and running. To make this integration as seamless as possible, we are thorough in our research to determine all software and hardware that is needed for these connections to be successful. GIS is a great tool but if you can leverage it across existing systems, its uses are even broader.” Make Your Business Case GIS professionals need to be able to speak the business language to push their ideas forward. While GIS holds great promise for government in helping to tackle the complex situations with which agencies are confronted, the benefits need to be communicated in quantifiable terms. GIS adoption will not receive buy-in if value is not clearly communicated in terms senior leaders can understand, A survey respondent stated, “Once people understand what the colors (i.e. demographic metrics) and shapes (i.e. neighborhoods) mean, it can have a powerful impact on arguing for change. I find though that for many it cannot be presented passively and let them figure it out for themselves. It can be formatted in a self guided fashion for individual discovery but people often don’t get the full impact unless some one points out the relationships.”

It’s Not Just for Programmers GIS is no longer just for those who code and program. Software has become much more intuitive to use. There is enormous value in GIS, and by understanding the value of GIS, and with proper training and identification of resources, there is a lot of value that can be derived from GIS for government agencies. Building greater context to inform policy decisions, managing strategic planning, and coordinating the deployment of resources are just a few of the applications for GIS programs. To fully leverage GIS to further agency missions, the technology should be used by more than just programmers and coders. These lessons learned are critical for government agencies. Along with the lessons learned, GIS has numerous benefits for agencies, which extend far beyond just emergency management. “The benefits are almost unlimited and as the tools in GIS expand, so do the uses for it. People, especially in today’s world, are very visual. GIS not only provides those visuals but it solves problems. Sorting through spreadsheets makes it hard to detect patterns but looking at it through GIS begins to make sense of where and why,” stated a survey respondent.






with GIS

“GIS provides the ability to monitor the crisis and react in real time. GIS connects people, resources, and information geographically to help decision makers understand the full scope of a dynamic situaion.”

GIS is continuing to evolve and users are continually finding new applications for GIS across government. Implementing GIS is becoming increasingly important for agencies as public services become more complex. Often, GIS is the backbone of public programs, running behind the scenes, powering many different kinds of technology and services upon which government and citizens rely.

pacts on communities. Most disasters are characterized by short reaction/response times, overwhelming devastation to infrastructure, and a strain on the tangible and intangible resources of the affected community. Decision makers at the local, state, and federal levels are expected to quickly implement plans to restore order and mitigate the aftermath of the disaster.”

Throughout the last decade, technology has helped to facilitate a better understanding of the complexity of natural disasters. The Esri website states, “Disasters in the form of earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes have severe economic, financial, and social im-

At the core of emergency management and preparedness is GIS. GIS technology allows decision makers to grasp the social, physical, and economic forces of a disaster. GIS plays a critical role during all aspects of a disaster, from proper planning and preparedness initiatives,


to continuing on after the crisis to mitigate the affects of a disaster. During the emergency, GIS also allows first responders and crisis center managers to quickly communicate and address needs. The use of GIS in emergency management has been accelerated, not just because of improvements to GIS technology, but also because of the rapid advances in mobile and cloud technology. The “cloud first” and Digital Government Initiative by the Obama Administration has pushed agencies to adopt cloud and mobile technology. The connection between GIS, cloud, and mobile has led to an integrated suite for emergency managers. With the use of GIS, cloud, and mobile, agencies can collaborate and share information visually through interactive and dynamic maps. With mobile access, people can share realtime maps and data, using this information to improve how resources are allocated and how decisions are made. In particular, the use of social media and geo-tagging on devices has led to incredible lifesaving advancements in emergency management. There are many examples of geotagging being used in emergency management. One example comes from the devastating storms that hit the eastern United States in April 2012. As powerful thunderstorms moved through the

area, families looked to social media to track down loved ones, check-in on neighborhoods, and learn about the condition of their communities through social media. With the use of geo-location tags on social media platforms, citizens could use GIS to help get status updates on their community. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports, “For some people, it only took a single tweet or Facebook post to map their exact locations for search parties and anxious family members.” The article quoted Gabriel Schmidbauer, adjunct professor of geology and geographic information systems at Aurora, Colo.-based American Sentinel University, as saying “Geo-enabled tweets and other types of social media that go on maps can be used as a way of analyzing events as they happen”. Along with geotagging, mobile applications and GIS have radically altered how emergency response information is provided to citizens. An example of this comes from the case study, New Information Channel: Andriod app gets evacuation information to residents, which states, “When the 2011 Tohoku earthquake,


one of the strongest ever recorded, struck the coast of Japan, it sent a tsunami Hawaii’s way. In a sense, Hawaii had dodged a bullet. The March 11, 2011, earthquake transferred most of the tsunami’s energy toward Japan’s coast rather than toward Hawaii. The wave that Hawaii experienced was 1 meter high (compared to Japan’s 10-meter wave) but still caused millions of dollars in damage to docks and seacraft but—fortunately—no deaths.” Once the tsunami hit, Hawaiian residents visited their primary resource for emergency notifications, the city website. Due to the high traffic volumes, the website crashed, leaving citizens uncertain about their safety. The case study stated, “One of the GIS analysts mentioned that their site [] went down following the alert because too many residents were trying to find information related to the tsunami at once.” This situation ultimately inspired the city to create a new mobile app that provides evacuation information for citizens. Honolulu traditionally publishes information on evacuations in phone books. The city found




12. that publishing information in the phonebook is not the most efficient option, as many residents are dependent on their mobile phones. The City of Honolulu is prepared for an emergency situation, having developed an app that helps people stay safe and find shelter in a crisis.



what: Emergency Response 2.0, GIS Builds Customer Web App to Empower Emergency Managers

GIS In Focus: Mobile and Larimer County An additional case study is from Larimer County, Colorado, Emergency Response 2.0, GIS Builds Customer Web App to Empower Emergency Managers, shows the power of a custom web app, and how customization of web applications has the power to transform emergency management. The author of the post is Larimer County’s GIS Programmer, Royce Simpson. Larimer County is home to nearly 300,000 citizens and holds nearly 29 cities and towns. Like many county governments, Larimer County collects and stores data related to shelters and critical infrastructures, such as public facilities, schools and police and fire stations. During a crisis, managers need to quickly be able see what infrastructures may be in jeopardy, identify high population areas, high-risk communities, and where to send services. With GIS, this can be done nearly instantly and improves

the decision making process during a crisis. Royce states, “When coupled with census and derived Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) HAZUS-MH layers, a rich, query able tapestry becomes readily available. Map visualization provides a holistic overview of the incident, while actionable reports come from performing spatial queries.” This information is critical for emergency managers to have as a crisis unfolds. To fully capitalize the potential of GIS, employees need to take advantage of a significant number of training opportunities. Even though a manager is equipped with all the tools to make an informed decision, significant training is still required for the manager to think clearly, know the resources of the community, and remain calm throughout the emergency; this is critical during an emergency and allows emergency managers to make decisions with clarity.

Royce identifies three ways GIS tools are used during an emergency, stating, “[GIS] allows instant collaboration, visualizes population and infrastructure vulnerabilities, visualizes and manages the allocation of resources with their associated hazards.” These are all critical elements to disaster recovery, and mitigating the impact of a crisis on a community.

How GIS is Used in Emergency/Disaster Management Esri provides some great resources on disaster management. On their website Esri walks through how GIS is used in emergency management. They identify four aspects, planning and analysis, data management, situational awareness, and field operations. Below, the GovLoop team has expanded on each and provided some further context on how important each is for emergency man-


agement. GIS to Assist With Planning and Community Analysis GIS technology allows emergency management professionals to adequately address needs of the community and identify high-risk communities when a crisis may hit. Commu-

nity analysis is at the core of emergency preparedness. GIS can facilitate the identification of critical infrastructure, low laying land that may lead to increased risk, and assist with plans to provide relief to distressed communities. This analysis and process has lifesaving applications.

Identification of Data For a GIS system to properly function, there is an immense amount of data that needs to be collected, stored, and managed. GIS allows users to turn raw data into relevant information, driving decisions and improving outcomes. One of the GovLoop survey respon-

Mapping the Colorado Wildfires



GIS use during the 2012 Colorado wildfires demonstrated how GIS can help mitigate the damage from natural disasters. Esri has developed an online gallery that showcases web maps and applications created by Esri users during the crisis. The fires in Colorado were some of the worst in history. With the combination of oppressive heat and drought, the risk and intensity of wildfires in the Southwest United States has grown. On June 27th alone, nearly 32,000 residents were forced to evacuate their homes. The High Park fire burned 259 homes and 87,284 acres, in a fire that roared for nearly a month in Colorado. The fire has been estimated to include $39.2 million in damages. The Waldo Canyon fire was just as oppressive, as the fire burned 347 homes and 17,827 acres, in the town situated just west of Colorado Springs. During the crisis, Esri developed maps that showed important data about the fires. Some of the data on the maps included the wind direction, precipitation, burned areas, location of fires and also included user generated content on the web, such as tweets and YouTube videos.

+ High Park

259 Homes Lost


Acres Burned

Waldo Canyon

347 Homes Lost

(Citation: )


Acres Burned



14. dents further emphasized the need for data management, stating, “Know the data, open the attribute table, look at the different values in a column, so that you can be confident in the answers you get from the queries and analysis you perform on the data.” Collaboration with Field Operations Critical to capitalizing on the power of GIS is integration of responders in the field with the command center. The ability to instantly collect data on a mobile device and relay that information to command centers provides greater clarity of the on the ground situation, and can allow decision makers to make more informed choices for allocating limited resources during a disaster. Situational Awareness Esri states, “Situational awareness is the corner stone of

emergency and disaster management. As an emergency unfolds, it is paramount to an effective response to understand the current circumstances and to monitor events as they dynamically unfold over time.” GIS provides the ability to monitor the crisis and react in real time. GIS connects people, resources, and information geographically to help decision makers understand the full scope of a dynamic situation. Prepare for a Crisis The first lesson is to be prepared; although it is impossible to plan for every element of a disaster, there are strategies that can be put into place for agencies. Many emergency response units have performed mock disaster trainings to help prepare and train for how to react during a crisis. By being prepared for a crisis, GIS can help agencies leverage the benefits that GIS provides. GIS can save significant time during a crisis for officials. A survey respondent stated, “With GIS we are saving funds and employees’ time, increasing collaboration, promoting

partnerships, and providing a grassroots platform for coastal/oceans/Great Lakes space management, not to mention other possible benefits we should discover after the National Ocean Policy is implemented.” Respond Efficiently GIS can quickly aide in response time. GIS helps to identify access roads and emergency routes, and, using the cloud, to collaborate with those in the field. Through mapping of emergency response route information, responders are able to quickly reach critical areas. Likewise, they also know vulnerabilities of the community and how to efficiently allocate resources. Recover Proactively During the recovery phase, GIS can be used to identify critical needs areas. Post disaster, GIS provides valuable information to advise recovery procedures. Leaders can view damage to critical infrastructure and buildings, and identify strategies to expedite the recovery process. GIS use for emergency management is still an emerging field. As GIS continues to evolve, precious time can be saved to properly allocated resources, provide citizens status updates, and save lives.


For more resources, on disaster management and GIS, please view:

tion management system.



ArcGIS Online—Wildfire imagery, maps, and data.

MODIS Active Fire Mapping Program—Click on Current Fire Information for “large incident” maps.



Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS)—MODIS active fire products in easy to use formats.


GEOMAC Wildland Fire Support—A multi-agency effort that allows fire managers to access online maps of current fire locations.


InciWeb—An interagency wildland fire incident informa-

MODIS Active Fire Maps— U.S.D.A. Forest Service - Remote Sensing Applications Center

!—Fire Mapping Community—Categories include: Responder Resources, GIS Data, Public Interest, Map Gallery, and more.

! National Oceanic and Atmo-

spheric Administration (NOAA) Fire Detect—Detects hotspots

that could become or already are fires.


National Fire Weather—Fire weather outlooks and warnings from the National Weather Service.


BLM Airspace Information System—For aviators and fire personnel, this site shows temporary flight restrictions due to the fires.

ArcGIS as a System for Emergency/Disaster Management The ArcGIS software provides a system for emergency/disaster management that supports all facets of the mission including preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery.







How do you see agencies leveraging GIS in 5 years?

I see GIS as a universal integrator, a way to aggregate data with spatial aspects in an easy to understand format, typically an interactive map/app. Leveraging GIS is really leveraging all your existing systems. I see agencies deciding that their needs to be one authoritative source of data and using GIS to clean that source up. Take zoning for instance; right now it’s in a bunch of different tabular repositories across different departments in the City. GIS is the only way to compare those disparate data sources to develop 1 correct zoning designation per parcel. That’s how I see agencies really and truly benefiting from GIS investments in the future.

“Web apps are another. With all the free resources out there and such an active development community you can produce a GIS-based web app in a very short period of time. Not a lot of other platforms can deliver that. We developed a Storm Surge Look-up App for citizens using ESRI’s ArcGIS Viewer for Flex in a week. It’s a really simple app but it gets the job done.”


“Federal agencies should start to do more largescale land management using a combination of data collected from the field, remote sensing, and geospatial data/existing data/metadata. Hopefully agencies will invest in flex viewers that will help break down organizational silos by showing different sources of agency data in one space or as layers that can be turned on and off (perhaps making some programs or processes visible for the first time to key decision makers).”

“Expect that it like everything else on the web will go increasingly mobile and more ubiquitous. What I would like to see is the I in GIS become knowledge more firmly in the hands of the democratic based populous so that they use it as a means of governance rather than for hyped up presentations.” “I’m hoping data will be shared more broadly and efficiently; so agencies can focus on their core missions.”

Data sources will be exposed as web services pushed via an enterprise service bus. If the IA policies will allow it, this will allow organizations to pick and choose their data, fuse it, and visualize it. This would occur across organizations and there would be one industry standard process to address interconnection and security.

“GIS will become an everyday tool for a variety of purposes within the next 5 years and it’s awareness will be widespread.”

“Looking five years into the future I see agencies interacting more with organizations such as IOOS to obtain data and partner with. I also believe that agencies may very well discontinue making maps themselves and use more contractor-developed maps.”





“By including projections of the effects of climate change, this approach offers a coherent and scientifically based way of addressing key decisions about development and land-use change.” -Geography Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara

2011 will long be remembered for its extreme weather. From wildfires in the West, to tornados in the heartland, to hurricanes in the East, the environment dealt the United States some harsh blows. With twelve separate incidents that claimed lives and cost over a billion dollars each, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) urges the country to heed the lessons of 2012 and anticipate even “more frequent extreme weather in the future.” Whether it is planning for large scale environmental changes and challenges, working to maintain the environment on a more localized level, or responding to environmental disasters, GIS can help agencies and organizations whose mission is to manage, protect, or work

within the conditions dictated by the environment.

Planning When it comes to planning for environmental changes, geography is everything. The impact of climate change is expected to be different for different regions and different types of terrain. GIS can help enable location-based planning and preparation. In a recap of a spatial roundtable discussion he attended, Esri President Jack Dangermond writes about the promise of using geodesign to help adapt to climate change. As one participant, a professor of geography at the University of California Santa Barbara put it, “A designer should be able to


sketch a design for a development near a coastline, and to evaluate it based on scientific models of sea-level rise, as well as pollution of air and water, impacts on traffic congestion, and other environmental and social dimensions. By including projections of the effects of climate change, this approach offers a coherent and scientifically based way of addressing key decisions about development and land-use change.� The ability to create layers that display population density, zoning, terrain, and environmental data can help bring multiple disciplines together to collaborate on how to deal with changing weather, coastlines, and more. The Geos In-

stitute, a non-profit organization, does just that as part of its ClimateWise service, which assesses and prepare communities for impacts associated with climate change. In using data from the U.S. Forest Service to make projections, The Geos Institute can help city, county, state, and federal government agencies prepare for environmental changes.

Maintenance and Restoration GIS in Focus: The National Forest Service While GIS can help with the anticipated environmental challenges of tomorrow, it can

also help agencies and communities better manage and care for resources for use and conservation today. GIS can help government and the public better understand natural resources and the impact of humans on those resources. The National Forest Service has used GIS to this end in several ways. It has used GIS to create an interactive online forest-planning map intended to incorporate the public in the planning process , to better understand watershed areas, and to assess damage by pests. GIS can also help more localized organizations and agencies with environmental restoration efforts and to improve conservation of vital resources like water through



20. a better understanding the landscape and availability of resources and the many jurisdictions and populations that depend on them.

Response GIS in Focus: US Fish and Wildlife In a perfect world, careful planning would be sufficient to ensure protection of the environment. However, as witnessed in recent years, accidents and natural events can bring about man-made environmental disasters. When this happens, GIS can help agencies to coordinate response. Jason Duke, Regional GIS Coordinator at the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), discusses how the FWS was dispatched to protect migratory birds following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In order to mount an effective response, the FWS and other responding agencies required data from numerous state and federal agencies, from on and offshore, and in a timely manner. Further, they needed to be able to view that data in a single location, so resources could be allocated efficiently on a daily basis. Duke explains that GIS allowed responders to create an “intelligent map... that we can make subtle changes to and make quick decisions off of,” while adding additional layers of

information on a daily basis. “At end of every day, we could see where every bird had been picked up, everywhere crews had been,” says Duke. FWS helped to create and update maps on a daily basis that enabled other agencies, like the U.S. Coast Guard to determine where to deploy resources the following day.


More Data,

Better Planning The ability to map and model interrelated geographic information has allowed local, state, and federal governments to revolutionize the way they plan for environmental changes, maintain and restore ecosystems, and respond to environmental disasters. GIS has already empowered numerous organizations to work with the public and one another to more effectively protect and manage the environment. As more and more organizations collect and share even more environmental data, the potential for GIS to be even more effective in planning for anticipated environmental changes and unanticipated environmental disasters will continue to improve.




mapping for


in communities

“Using the visual crime maps and detailed aerial photography, personnel and resources were better placed at the right times to provide deterrent to potential crime.�

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology has been the catalyst for much of the recent innovation in crime control and prevention. This critical public service has always been reliant upon information and intelligence gathering and mapping, but GIS software provides a platform for considering many variables affecting crime simultaneously. The initial use of crime data mapping had been limited to charting location and time of a crime. GIS software allows users in state and local government in the police department to plot crime, both in terms of time and place. Do-

ing this, they are able to analyze the data and determine patterns of criminal behavior within the city. They can do this for many types of crime, including burglary, car theft, and more. Because of the analysis of these patterns, police departments are able to better identify patterns of criminal activity.

Best Practice: Enhance Traditional Practices Law enforcement is naturally visual field, and crime mapping has existed in some form for well over one hundred years. Until the past few


decades, however, mapping criminal activity was done primitively, using techniques such as sticking pins in large maps posted on the wall. This allowed for the detection of clusters of criminal activity, but there was no process in place for more sophisticated analysis. For example, there was no common method for tracking the time or type of crime. With GIS technology, layers of information can be mapped for a more in-depth analysis of crime patterns. The knowledge regarding specific crimes officers track and record can now be overlaid to develop and understand patterns, beyond simple location of crime clusters.

Best Practice: Combine Traditional and NonTraditional Data to Target Crime “Assimilating differing data sources to give staff a more complete picture of the history of a parcel or the crimes occurring in an area of the City.

To quote the PSAs, “knowledge is power” Once mapping was possible on personal computers, GIS software began to be utilized by police forces to map multiple sources of traditional crime data, including the date, time, and type of offense in addition to the crime’s location. The information collected by police departments could be more readily analyzed, given a more complete visual representation of relevant data. However, GIS software such as ArcGIS can automatically link data sets within several different databases, allowing for greater innovation in crime analysis. Data sets from any area of government can now be combined with crime data for a more nuanced understanding of criminal activity. There are several cities that have successfully combined traditional police data with other non-traditional data to prevent certain types of criminal behavior in their jurisdiction.

These are some examples of cities that have created mashups of traditional and non-traditional police data to predict and prevent crimes. X Minneapolis, Minnesota: The city has combined data sets with locations of liquor stores, public libraries, public parks, and bus route locations to better identify patterns of gun-related crimes, including robberies, shootings, guntheft and illegal possession. X Arlington, Texas: The Arlington Police mapped building code violations along with the locations of residential break-ins to better anticipate new burglary hotspots. The resulting maps demonstrated a high correlation between dilapidated structures and break-ins, and are now being used to designate “fragileneighborhoods”, working with other government agencies to clean them up. X Memphis, Tennessee: Mapping the lighting of neighbor-





across the nation

Minneapolis, MN Combined data sets with locations of liquor stores, public libraries, public parks, and bus route locations to better identify patterns of gun-related crimes.

Ogden, UT Launched a multimission Real Time Crime Center (RTCC) which linked data sets within several different databases, including camera systems, crime databases, and vehicle tracking

Shelby, NC Developed CrimeStat to allow the police force to map things such as the locations of where stolen vehicles are stolen and recovered and crime density.

Columbia, SC Decreased violent crimes over the course of one year by 6.06 percent, and property crimes decreased by 14.22 percent through visual crime mapping.

Arlington, TX Mapped building code violations along with the locations of residential break-ins to better anticipate new burglary hotspots.

hoods, as well as proximity to concert venues and other non-traditional data, the city was able to spot connections between this information and criminal behavior.

GIS In Focus: Ogden, Utah Similar to these cities across the country, the Police Department in the City of Ogden, Utah, gathers and utilizes a

Memphis, TN Mapped the lighting of neighborhoods, as well as proximity to concert venues to spot connections between this information and criminal behavior.

significant amount of data in the course of their work. Prior to 2008, however, officers relied upon the crime analysis unit’s monthly reports for crime reduction planning and to identify additional areas of


concern. To produce these reports, the crime analysis unit manually combined data sets from multiple sources. To better understand patterns of crime, the Ogden Police Department (OPD) launched a multi-mission Real Time Crime Center (RTCC). With their initial implementation of this GIS software, ArcGIS automatically linked data sets within several different databases, including camera systems, crime databases, and vehicle tracking, and displayed them in a common operating picture. “It was added so that we could track and analyze patrol patterns and their relationship to crime patterns,� says Josh Jones, senior project coordinator—GIS, City of Ogden. Combining the disparate datasets for patrol locations and crime locations, along with additional layers of data, the Ogden Police Department (OPD) was provided with new information that led to better decision-making and resource allocation.

Best Practice: Provide Public Access to Data With open data movements thriving across all levels of government, providing access to high value information, such as crime data, will allow citizens to also better understand crime in their area. Residents consistently over-estimate the amount of crime in their area; providing access to actual data

may alleviate some of this concern. Additionally, there is the potential for crowd-sourcing applications to better understand crime. In Las Angeles, California, and Memphis, Tenessee, university faculty played central roles in developing the programs for data analysis. Opening up information to the public could lead to more innovation in preventing and controlling crime. GIS In Focus: Shelby, North Carolina After observing other larger cities successfully implement GIS software, the City of Shelby, North Carolina, customized a program that met their needs. Their program, CrimeStat, has provided concrete information for the force to act upon to reduce crime dramatically. The police department is able to build maps that show where stolen vehicles are stolen and recovered and create maps that show density of crimes such as driving under the influence. These maps can inform police where to patrol and be placed for selected enforcement. The Shelby Police Department also holds monthly meetings that are open to the public, helping facilitate collaboration between the police and the local community. During these meetings, maps created with CrimeStat are used to discuss

statistics and crime patterns from the previous month. The meetings walk through each crime category, and they discuss strategies to reduce the number of crimes committed in each area.

Best Practice: Targets Deployment of Limited Resources with Predictive Modeling In an era of decreasing resources, GIS helps law enforcement determine where to deploy resources for the largest impact. As budgets shrink and police forces become leaner, utilizing technology to pinpoint highcrime areas is increasingly important. Many cities are beginning to utilize GIS technology to map past crimes and analyze patterns retrospectively. Innovations in crime prevention are also being developed, with GIS software helping to forecast where future crimes will occur. GIS In Focus: Columbia, South Carolina The Columbia, South Carolina, Police Department has utilized GIS to more efficiently deploy resources through the use of visual crime maps. They are also able to analyze past data to forecast patterns of future crime. For example, an analysis of historical data may show an increase in burglaries during a specific season or month of



26. the year. Having the ability to map those crimes and determine which jurisdictions are affected can inform decisions about how resources are deployed and areas are patrolled. For patrolmen, being able to utilize the interactive maps allows them to determine, by clicking on an incident point, any tracked descriptive information, including the time and date of the burglary, how the break-in occurred, and what was stolen. Again, accessing data from multiple sources is an invaluable resource for analyzing patterns of crime. Captain Rick J. Hines of the Columbia Police Department described that, “The photomap [created with GIS] visually depicted pathways between buildings, back alleys, and other potential locations for criminal opportunists to prey on social gatherers heading back to their cars late at night.” He continued, “Using the visual crime maps and detailed aerial photography, personnel and resources were better placed at the right times to provide a deterrent to potential crime. In the event of a crime, the staff was able to respond to an incident more quickly.” Implementing this program has led to real returns on investment for the police department. Since implementing their GIS program, the City of Columbia, SC, has seen a dramatic decrease in criminal

activity. Violent crimes have decreased over the course of one year by 6.06 percent, and property crimes decreased by 14.22 percent.



The Platform for Government No matter how you deliver government services, Esri provides the platform for your place-based decisions. With data, analysis, field mobility, operational awareness, and citizen engagement solutions, we can help you foster innovation, reduce costs, and improve the way you govern.

Learn more at Copyright Š 2012 Esri. All rights reserved.




THROUGH EMERGING TECHNOLOGY “The first key step in enabling anyone in the world to visit a GIS map, click on a country, understand where all of our projects are, what they’re doing, and the kinds of results they’re getting,” which will make USAID’s work “far more accessible, transparent and effective.” -Dr. Rajiv Shah , U.S. Agency for International Development Due to the current precarious fiscal state of the economy, government agencies are continually looking to close budgets and at the same time, provide a higher level of services to citizens. While there are never easy solutions to delivering social services, improving public health, and sparking urban renewal, government needs every decision, program, and implementation to count. This requires an excellent understanding of the context around a problem and developing strategic and priori-

tized solutions. Further, agencies must be efficient and properly coordinate among the myriad organizations and jurisdictions involved in providing assistance and supporting vulnerable populations. Geographic information systems (GIS) offer a unique way to help governments achieve all three.


Understanding the Context GIS In Focus: Department of Agriculture It is critical to understand a problem’s context before deciding on a solution. The recent explosion in geo-tagged data can help organizations tasked with health, human services, and housing missions better understand challenges faced by areas of interest. By using geo-tagged data, it is now possible to view demographics, income, access to low-cost and nutritious food, access to health professionals, and more all within a single map. Each of these distinct, yet related variables can be mapped on a separate “layer” and be viewed in different combinations to help planners, social workers, nonprofits, and government officials best understand what the critical factors at play are and to use this information to determine the best course of action. In understanding the context of a problem and evaluating potential solutions, it is critical to understand what resources already exist in a given area and what access to those resources is like. The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) did just that in spring of 2011, when it released the Food Desert Locator. A food desert is a “low-

income census tract where either a substantial number or share of residents has low access to a supermarket or grocery store.” In short, a Food Desert is an area in which a significant portion of residents does not have ready access to affordable, nutritious food. Using GIS, USDA developed the Food Desert Locator to clearly illustrate where food deserts exist. Using the map, it becomes possible to understand which areas lack access to nutritious food—critical information for anyone seeking to address public health issues like childhood obesity or social welfare issues. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says this understanding will “help policy makers, community planners, researchers, and other professionals identify communities where public-private intervention can help make fresh, healthy, and affordable food more readily available to residents.”

More Informed DecisionMaking GIS In Focus: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) In addition to helping understand context, GIS can be a valuable resource in making

decisions and prioritizing actions. This applies not only to policymakers, who can make better policy and program decisions based on a complete understanding of a problem and available resources, but also to private citizens, who can make better decisions when armed with the appropriate information displayed in a user-friendly way. Viewing information visually on a map, rather than as a list of text, it can improve understanding of a situation and allow individuals to take a more informed course of action. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the successor to the food stamp program, aids 44 million Americans each year. In 2010, the USDA released the SNAP Retail Locator, which allows SNAP benefit recipients to see the retailers near their home, work, or other location that accept SNAP benefits. Jonathan Bennett, a Program Manager for the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, argues that the tool allows beneficiaries to make “better buying decisions” by viewing all stores that accept SNAP benefits in their area and allowing them to compare before showing up at a retailer to make a purchase. One of the interesting developments following the release of the SNAP Retail Locator is that while the tool was built for SNAP benefit recipients, an “Unintended user was also the SNAP eligibility



30. workers out in the states who are working with individuals to qualify and authorize them to receive SNAP benefits.” The tool not only helps current recipients make better buying decisions, but it also helps state employees make better decisions when determining eligibility and working with new beneficiaries to maximize the value of the program.

Coordinating Across Organizations GIS In Focus: USAID The potential for organizations to derive value from GIS increases as more and more industries and organizations discover new uses for geo-tagging and mapping their data. As more organizations collect geographic data and integrate GIS into their workflows and programs, new opportunities exist to improve efficiency. Perhaps some of the biggest of these efficiency gains could arise from increased transparency into organizations’ data and the associated ability of organizations to complement each other’s work. The USDA, which has 29 separate divisions that use geospatial information, is working to create a central repository of GIS maps and information.

This will help to avoid circumstances in which a researcher does not realize a map exists with specific information and “end up duplicating work that’s already been done or relying on an inferior product.” In a similar move, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) launched a GeoCenter, which USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah touted as “The first key step in enabling anyone in the world to visit a GIS map, click on a country, understand where all of our projects are, what they’re doing, and the kinds of results they’re getting,” which will make USAID’s work “far more accessible, transparent and effective.”

I n other words, GIS is enabling an entire ecosystem of agencies, nonprofits, and companies to understand all of the work being performed that could affect its own work in any given region. As organizations increase their use of GIS to become more transparent, it becomes possible to improve resource allocation by taking advantage of each other’s resources. For instance, one group of separate jurisdictions created a GIS collaboration group in Fulton County, Georgia.

The Fulton GIS Collaboration Group listed four significant benefits of collaboration for the jurisdictions involved :

+ Elimination of redundant maintenance for data that existed in multiple places.

+ Potential to save costs through identifying points of project integration.

+ An ability to share technology and knowledge resources.

+ Improved accuracy of allocation of taxes collected.


A PROMISING FUTURE GIS holds the potential to improve the ability of individuals, organizations, and governments to better understand problems, devise and prioritize solutions, and to collaborate and improve transparency in administering programs. With myriad organizations that collect data and provide services at the intersection of public health and social welfare, the potential impact of GIS is significant. GIS holds potential for government to more fully understand and access information related to nutritious food, exercise facilities, healthcare, as well as the potential for development, and growing food locally. It will be exciting to see how more organizations follow the lead of those listed here to find new ways of developing and delivering solutions through the use of GIS.




Building the Base Map for

Citizen engagement “With advances in technology, a greater information exchange between government agencies and the public has occured. The amount of data created...can be daunting for agencies to present and process in order to effectively engage with and respond to the community. “

The primary goal for government is to provide services for citizens; critical to achieving that mission is gaining a better understanding of what services a community values. Providing information and receiving feedback are the fundamental processes of citizen engagement. With advances in technology, a greater information exchange between government agencies and the public has occurred. The amount of data created through this exchange, however, can be daunting for agencies to present and process in order to effectively engage with and respond to the community.

use of Web 2.0 technology to make government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative. Using GIS technology, public servants have developed innovative ways of both providing better access to data, as well as more adeptly processing feedback received from citizens. The accessibility of data allows agencies to be more transparent; the opportunity for citizen analysis of data increases government accountability and participation. Also, having a clear feedback cycle allows for additional collaboration between government and the public.

Advances in technology have paved the way for the continued evolution of Gov 2.0, or the

While open data sets are an important aspect of the open data movement, it is only the first


step in increasing and improving citizen engagement. In Esri’s Fall 2011 newsletter for Government Matters, six clear steps are presented for advancing citizen engagement within an agency. Originally entitled the “Anatomy of a Gov 2.0 Solution,” each step represents a path toward furthering citizen understanding and engagement. Step 1: Begin with Authoritative, High Value Data Step 2: Push Data to Citizens Step 3: Allow Citizen Analysis Step 4: Create a Citizen Feedback Loop Step 5: Update Authoritative Data Step 6: Increase Operational Awareness Whether your agency is still identifying high value data to provide to the public, or has already pushed out this information and needs to solicit citizen feedback, these steps, along with the illustrative case studies for each step, should help your agency effectively implement GIS technology.

Step 1: Begin with Authoritative, High Value Data The movement toward open data has been a catalyst for Gov 2.0 and has increased citizen engagement. Government agencies maintain highquality, reliable data sets that serve as a foundation for Gov 2.0 initiatives. Since the launch

of, there is a clear platform for agencies to use to provide access to critical data sets. At the federal level, the Open Data Initiative has aimed to “liberate” government data by making traditional government data publicly available, in an effort to improve the lives of Americans and create economic opportunity. As a part of this movement, the White House also launched the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, which pairs top innovators from the private sector, non-profits, and academia with top innovators in government to collaborate on projects. For state and local governments, there are also clear examples of cities throughout the United States that are setting the bar for access to high value, timely, critical information. Brand Niemman, the Director and Senior Data Scientist at SemanticCommunity. net, spoke with Christopher Dorobek of the DorobekINSIDER to discuss the open data movement’s unrealized potential. In their conversation, he emphasized that releasing information critical to government services and decisionmaking should be the highest priority for agencies. To better facilitate the sharing of high value data, Niemman stated that government “Should build a data science


Step 1 Begin with Authoritative, Hig Value Data

Step 2 Push Data to Citizens

Step 3 Allow Citizen Analysis

Step 4 Create a Citizen Feedback Loop

Step 5 Update Authoritative Data

Step 6 Increase Operational Awareness



the Open Data Initiative has aimed to “liberate” government data by making traditional government data publicly available, in an effort to improve the lives of Americans and create economic opportunity.

community in the agencies.” He elaborated by suggesting that, “Agencies should put forward a statistician or data scientist to be the points of contact. Because right now, a lot of the points of contact for the activities are not those people – are not the subject matter experts, the statisticians, or the data scientists.” Putting forth experts to select high value data would advance

the open data movement, and will allow for greater innovation with GIS. As one survey participant states, “Share your data, locate and maintain outside data sources.” GIS In Focus:


This year the City of Seattle, Washington, joined the Data. gov venture,,

along with three other cities throughout the United States. Prior to this venture, however, Seattle launched data.seattle. gov in early 2010 and had been a leading force in the open data movement. Even earlier, in 2006 the city had pioneered their “My Neighborhood Map”, an interactive mapping tool that opened important city data to the public, including food bank locations, hospitals and health centers, schools, and more. The launch of allowed public access to authoritative, high value information. The datasets include detailed budget information, active business licensing data, crime data, and several hundred other data sets. Beginning with data that is important to the public has made the platform more successful, as this is the type of information that most directly impacts the citizens of Seattle.


While the information has been accessible via Seattle’s website for several years, joining has been an exciting opportunity for the city. As D’Anne Mount of the Seattle Department of Information Technology wrote to the Seattle Weekly, joining “Increases awareness and visibility of available data streams to a broader audience. It also provides a centralized repository for developers and citizens to find data without needing to visit individual sites”. Though began with just four cities, as of now there are, in total, fifteen cities that have joined the movement. The City of Seattle, as well as the fourteen other cities with similar initiatives, has shown how data can be empowering and create a more dynamic and engaged citizenry. High value, authoritative data is essential to any GIS initiative; in order to encourage the development of web applications and other innovative online tools, cities need to provide a data platform for developers.

Step 2: Push Data to Citizens Making datasets open to the public is a necessary first step in facilitating greater citizen engagement. While data analysts and programmers may have the ability to readily ma-


nipulate and interpret these datasets, providing a context for the data will allow more citizens to utilize the information. GIS visualization puts data into a visual context, allowing users to view information in a format with which they are familiar. A significant amount of data has a geospatial element, and organizing information geographically is more intuitive for viewers. Mapping data can dramatically improve transparency and accountability across all levels of government. Public works, public safety, parks and recreation, and other areas across federal, state, and local government provide services to citizens. Pushing data to citizens in formats they can easily view and understand increases citizen engagement with public agencies and their missions. GIS In Focus:


cago’s Crime Maps With almost 2,000 data feeds on their site,, the City of Chicago, Illinois, has made an incredible effort to improve transparency for residents. Building upon that progress, in addition to the incredible number of datasets provided, the city has also offered context for using GIS software. Datasets on fire stations, street closure permits, bike racks, and many more, have been overlaid on city maps to allow users to easily view and interpret the information. The City of Chicago’s Police Department has made detailed information on reported incidents of crime available on the data site. This information is presented in a spreadsheet with thousands of rows, each representing a unique crime. Viewing the crime spread-



of data has allowed them to create applications that can analyze and display information in useful and meaningful new ways. There are countless examples of citizen-made applications that analyze public datasets to address issues important to the community. GIS In Focus: Chesapeake Bay Restoration

sheet does not readily increase transparency of crime in the city, but overlaying the data on a map of the city dramatically enhanced the utility of the information. The mapped crime data allows users to easily view incidents by neighborhood, all throughout the metropolitan area. It easily allows viewers to see crime density in each of these areas. Zooming in on a particular neighborhood, viewers can look street by street at each incident, with each incident represented by a blue point. Clicking on these points provides the additional data from the original crime dataset, including location, time, type of incident, and other pertinent information.

Step 3: Allow Citizen Analysis Once data is mapped, citizens are able to engage with these maps to understand initiatives and see how government is serving them. Through viewing the data and identifying trends, citizens can evaluate the impact of new programs and policies. This step is clearly the most beneficial in allowing citizens to see what their government is doing for them. Looking to the future, they are also able to access better information for evaluating and voting on local bond levies, propositions, and other issues. Additionally, for citizen developers and programmers, the advancement of government APIs allowing for easy mining

The restoration of Chesapeake Bay is an incredibly important issue for residents of Maryland, one that has been a huge focus during Governor O’Malley’s tenure. During this time, ChesapeakeStat was created to increase transparency and accountability for the project. The application utilizes GIS to allow the public, Congress, other restoration stakeholders, and project managers to track the project through completion. It provides data on the program’s progress, current status, and the funding that has been allocated to the program. The program allows users to zoom into various areas to locate restoration activities examining smaller watershed and viewing activity in specific areas. It is the first effort of its kind that improves accountability for all partners in Chesapeake Bay restoration effort. It utilizes multiple datasets to display funding streams from each fiscal year and how they will be used; there is also a database that details restoration


activities, spending to date, and the project’s current status. The program organizes data around the five goal areas of sustainable fisheries, healthy habitats, water quality, healthy watersheds, and Chesapeake stewardship. For each category, there are a suite of environmental and performance indicators that allow the public to better judge the effectiveness of the effort. The ChesapeakeStat Program is an exemplar for the potential of GIS software to allow citizen analysis. Not only providing layers of high value, mapped information, but also presenting clear metrics for analysis, contribute to citizen analysis of an important state initiative. Moving forward, there are clear applications for programs across the country to increase public transparency and accountability.

The ability to map data collected from social media sites also gives government the ability to solicit citizen input from where they’re naturally going online. Through web and mobile apps, citizens can report many different types of information, including easement violations. Using geocoding data, mapping these data points allows agencies to visualize and make sense of the data and respond to issues. Government adoption of applications that create a citizen feedback loop have legitimized and promoted their use. Citizen participation in data collection has become more prevalent in many cities


across the country as a result. GIS In Focus: Montgomery County, Maryland In Montgomery County, Maryland, forest conservation easements – legal agreements that limit activities to protect forests – protect almost 10 percent of the county’s forests. These easements were previously monitored using individual paper maps; communicating information and monitoring the condition of easements was almost impossible for the county. After building a geodatabase that included the locations of

Step 4: Create a Citizen Feedback Loop Beyond providing access to data and allowing citizen analysis, the advancement of mobile technology has allowed citizens to meaningfully participate in the collection of data. The innovation of crowdsourcing applications, which solicit citizen input, have both increased citizen engagement and have led to realized cost savings for local governments.


38. easements, individual requirements, and the condition of each land parcel, they were able to better analyze and manage the forests, as well as provide public access to the information for the first time. Additionally, they created a feedback loop for citizens to report easement violations. Seeing the success of this program, other departments have created similar programs to further their missions. Applications for tracking park encroachment and an interactive map for historic preservation are just two examples of how this success was translated into new opportunities for citizen engagement.

Step 5: Update Authoritative Data “Validating or debunking preconceived notions about where City services are needs or where our infrastructure conditions are poor. Just because people think they know doesn’t mean it’s right.” Once a citizen feedback loop is in place, government agencies can utilize different methods for validating this crowdsourced data. By photographing violations, agencies can visualize the issue and appropriately respond. Data can also be validated in crowdsourced applications through multiple reports of the same issue. As data becomes validated, it will be most effective when incorporated into agency workflows. For example, validated public works requests could be directly integrated with current operating systems to decrease response times. Using this feedback to create upto-date workflows improves performance and increases efficiency. GIS In Focus: City of Glendale, California The City of Glendale, California, was one of the first jurisdictions to adopt a cloud-based citizen reporting platform, allowing the public to become involved in maintaining their community. The program not only improves public involvement, but it also streamlines and automates public service

requests. The system enables citizens to use the most common smartphones to easily report issues in their community, including graffiti, potholes, and broken streetlights. Using geocoded data from smartphones, the application allows citizens to photograph and categorize the problem, add any additional comments, and submit the notification with a GPS location for the service request. The information provided by each citizen is mapped and publicly available. Additionally, the status of the issue is also publicly maintained. This open dataset incorporates the first three steps of the citizen engagement process, allowing for open, high value data that is mapped and available for citizen analysis. Citizens can also directly contribute to

Citizen Developers STATEOFGIS

the dataset by utilizing the application to report new issues that need to be addressed. Once reported, the application updates the existing customer service request system with this new data to ensure a timely response. As the issues are resolved, that information is also visible to citizens. Providing a transparent citizen feedback loop integrated with public workflows allow citizens to engage with the maintenance of their community.

Step 6: Increase Operational Awareness The mapping of authoritative government data and crowdsourced data provides better visibility into communities and a more robust operating picture for agencies. Clearly, the increasing collaboration between public agencies and citizens allows for a more effective and responsive governance. Providing services to the public is the most important goal of government, and through opening public data, soliciting citizen analysis and feedback, and building systems to increase responsiveness, these services are dramatically improved. The key platform for these improvements in data sharing and collection is GIS technology. Regardless of whether your

agency is deciding how best to tackle the first step, or has effectively implemented a feedback loop for citizen engagement, the innovations possible through GIS provide the opportunity to continu ously improve. These steps can help your agency conceptualize a path forward, providing a framework for thinking through how best to engage citizens in your agency’s mission. Whether your agency’s central mission is emergency response, crime prevention, environmental planning and protection, or confronting poverty, malnutrition and lack of housing, you can use GIS technology to achieve a more informed and engaged citizenry.



Challenge The City of Seattle, Washington State’s Broadband Office and King County have launched the joint initiative, the Evergreen Apps Challenge, to produce sustainable applications using government data to serve the community.

The goals of the Competition are to: 1) To stimulate the development of applications that improve access to information, government services and government transparency, making it easier and more fun to visit, live and work in Washington. 2) To stimulate economic development by encouraging innovation and the creation of new intellectual property with commercial potential by individuals, startups and small organizations.






Participants in the survey were asked to share what their greatest challenge implementing GIS....

One interesting discussion that arose from the survey was on software licenses. In many areas of government, license sharing for software is a challenge. Two respsones are essentially at odds, as on respondent stated, “The biggest challenge is decentralized offices, data sharing and need more license.” Another respondent stated, “If someone else answers this question saying that we need more software licenses then that should put up a red flag. It isn’t about the software, it’s about the people.” The respondent continued to state that there is a dire need for more properly trained GIS officials, and easier access to products.

Training was a common answer from respondents, as another respondent stated, “Human Resources, the people are the limiting factor on the use of the technology and the data that makes the technology useful.” There was also a significant contribution of answers regarding regulation. Respondents stated, “My fellow colleagues would say lack of data management highly incorporated in our business models along with lack of funding. Although I think this has merit, the response to first question clearly identifies where the root cause of problem lies. It is lack of clear authority for all government agencies and private industry to follow. Certain of my conservative friends would disagree, but, GIS needs to be regulated much more.”



Further, a respondent identified the need to standardize information, “Standardize information, get people involved in the culture of sharing the information and having their contractors collect and send standardized info.” Likewise, a respondent mentioned the need to collaborate in decentralized environment, stating, “Collaboration on corporate and business specific datasets across a vast decentralized organization.”

A final response from a survey participant provides some great insights to some of the challenges being faced by GIS officials. “I can list several key challenges: we have a complex mission with a huge number of programs and a huge range and number of data sets; we have not developed data standards for all mission-critical data (and therefore it is not collected and catalogued uniformly making it hard to create national GIS); pressure to reduce costs and reduce data centers in Federal agencies makes

it hard for us to have an enterprise GIS; DOI geospatial and IT policies are in flux; GIS software products are updated before we can learn the potential of the last version; we don’t have enough in-house system administrators to maintain any GIS viewers/applications we develop. It’s therefore difficult to show the value of GIS historically and currently to our agency (hard to tell clear stories to non-technical/non GIS experts).”

Be sure to visit GovLoop, as we will be highlighting some of these challenges, and working to find solutions from the GovLoop community.



GIS RESOURCES Below you can find further resources, case studies, and information about GIS from GovLoop and Esri. GovLoop Blogs t Top 10 Benefits of GIS t GIS - Not Just for Programmers or Tech Savvy t Cloud and GIS: A Perfect Match for Collaboration t Using GIS During an Emergency t Local Governments Increase Transparency Through GIS Technology Esri Resources t Top 5 Benefits of GIS t What Can You Do with GIS? t The Geographic Approach t GIS Glossary t Esri Publications t Map Gallery Federal Government Case Studies t Mobile Application Illustrates US Recovery Projects t Elevating Maps into the Clouds t Climate Change Scenario Planning for Cape Cod t US Forest Service Sees Regional Horizons t Insuring America’s Farmland t NOAA Geoportal Speeds Data Discovery at National Climatic Data Center t eCoastal Program Fosters an Enterprise Approach to Data Management t Rapidly Evolves t The US Green Building Council’s Gateway to Green Building t Chesapeake Bay Restoration Made Transparent t National Park Service Follows the Modern Lewis and Clark Trail t Geoenabling Federal Business Processes State Government t Keeping Traffic Moving during Bridge Repair Project t ELA Supports Maryland’s Nationally Recognized Program t How Disaster Ready Are You? t How Do You Warn 19 Million People at the Drop of a Hat? t Paul Tessar Is the Johnny Appleseeed of GIS Local Governments t Collaboration Is Easier in Sussex County, New Jersey


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King County Documents ROI of GIS Dealing with Rapid Growth and Program Compliance Small Scripts, Big ROI Local Officials Ride the Wave of Baby Boomers Automating Street Sign Maintenance in St. Johns County Philadelphia Uses Robotics and GIS to Map Below Market Street City of Las Vegas Implements ParkPAD for Mobile Asset Management Preparing for a Vibrant Future in the Township of Langley Modeling Walkability City of Woodland Refines Water Crew Dispatch Code for America Drives More Efficient City Government Mobile GIS Improves Code Enforcement Services in McAllen, Texas Port of Los Angeles Unifies Operations with Data Portal





Identifying the Promise of GIS for Government was written by Pat Fiorenza, Lindsey Tepe and Steve Cottle. Design of the guide was done by Jeff Ribeira and Cat Robinson. Thank you to everyone in the GovLoop community for their contribution to this guide. Pat Fiorenza, GovLoop Research Analyst Pat is currently a Research Analyst at GovLoop. Through the creation of blogs, research reports, guides, in-person, and online events, Pat helps to identify and find best practices to share with the GovLoop community. Pat received his Masters of Public Administration degree from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. Lindsey Tepe, GovLoop Graduate Fellow Lindsey is currently a Fellow at GovLoop. In this role, Lindsey assists with the development of content creation. This includes writing of blogs, research reports and facilitating community engagement on GovLoop. Lindsey received her Masters of Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse and is a former Teach for America Fellow. Steve Cottle, GovLoop Graduate Fellow Steve is currently a Graduate Fellow at GovLoop and a student at Georgetown University,

where he is pursuing a Masters of Public Policy at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute. Prior to his time at GovLoop and Georgetown, Steve spent nearly five years as a federal strategy and operations consultant, supporting clients throughout the Department of Homeland Security and serving as a fellow in a think tank for public sector innovation. Jeff Ribeira, GovLoop Content and Community Coordinator Jeff is the Content and Community Coordinator at GovLoop and manages all creative and technical development projects. He graduated from Brigham Young University where he studied Russian, Middle Eastern Studies/Arabic, and International Development. Cat Robinson, GovLoop Design Fellow Cat is currently a Design Fellow at GovLoop. She received her Masters in Art Therapy from the George Washington University in 2010. She began her career in graphic design with the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture and now designs for Govloop. She is interested in effective visual communication for worthy causes.

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GovLoop Guide: Identifying the Promise of GIS for Government  

GovLoop guide exploring applications and case studies of GIS in government.

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