If you’ve ever tried to find good, authoritative sources of free, public domain small-scale world data you know it can be a daunting task. But not for long. Natural Earth Vector is coming and it will be a boon for geographers, cartographers, and GIS folks working from regional to world scales (small scale). I’ll predict it will also have tremendous impact in the geography education arena, where it is much needed.
This dataset will allow you to make beautiful and authoritative political and physical world maps quickly – from the large wall map variety down to postcard size. Instead of spending time looking for data, you will be able to focus on using the map to tell your geographic story. You will be able to map at the continent and country levels (including showing provinces and some local cities, regional, and “world” cities). The data will be fully attributed and we get into the nitty gritty details like disputed boundaries & tiny ocean islands and the beautiful with hypsometric tints & relief shading.
Tom Patterson and Nathaniel Kelso collaborated on the precursor to his first Natural Earth Raster project several years ago and they now preview Natural Earth Raster + Vector, a new free product that complements and expands on the previous work by providing detailed GIS linework at the 1:15,000,000 (1:15 million) scale and new versions of the raster product (including cross-blended hyspometric tints). The project will be unveiled at the 2009 North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) annual meeting on October 7th.
From “First Look at Natural Earth Vector.” This is a NACIS and mapgiving co-branded product with assistance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison cartography lab, Florida State University, and others. You can read more updates on the project at Kelso’s Corner.
! For more information, see the complete report. !
From transportation to public safety to economic development, the IndianaMap supports hundreds of local, regional and statewide projects each year. The IndianaMap was used for response and recovery during this year’s major flooding, tornado, and earthquake events, Honda’s selection of Indiana for its new facility, and much more. Stories documenting how the IndianaMap is used are presented throughout this report. Phase one of the IndianaMap is complete and the results are in—the initial investment of $8.5 million in the IndianaMap supports over 200-times its value in projects and operations—with 90% of users indicating they could not do their projects without it. As is evident from this study, the IndianaMap proves a good investment by saving taxpayer dollars and providing an information infrastructure that benefits all Hoosiers.
86% indicated that IndianaMap orthophotography was essential to their operations.
Still there are many challenges to completing and maintaining the IndianaMap. Conflicting interpretations of “electronic map”» and confusion surrounding the validity of copyrighting factual data » result in inconsistent access to electronic map data. Non-standard maps present technical obstacles to data integration. The importance of multi-jurisdictional data providers (local, region, state and federal) is not well recognized. But perhaps most significantly, Indiana’s Legislature has not allocated funding specifically for support and maintenance of the IndianaMap. To help address these issues and justify future financing of the IndianaMap, IGIC answers the question “What are the economic and use-benefits of the IndianaMap?” ‘Economic value’ is taken to mean the contribution that the IndianaMap makes to Indiana’s economy as a provider of geographic information.
Like roads and bridges, the IndianaMap is part of a public infrastructure that is a longterm investment in Indiana’s future. There are hundreds, potentially thousands of IndianaMap users. Truly a public good, anyone can access it, anonymously, through a web viewer (e.g.,
www.indianamap.org and www.maps.google.com), through data download websites, off-line at public libraries, and other public access points. Because the users are widespread, it is difficult to estimate the total user base. All Hoosiers benefit through the money it saves taxpayers, as well as improved quality of life through better-managed resources, transportation, and business. For this study, input was sought from a known user base (those who are registered with the IndianaMap download sites and email distribution lists) through an appropriately designed questionnaire with the following objectives:
The results of the survey clearly indicate that over $1.7 billion in Indiana projects and government operations are supported by the IndianaMap. Meeting these objectives will help plan for future mapping projects and assess the IndianaMap in qualitative as well as monetary terms.
The questionnaire had nine questions implemented through an online survey tool. The response rate to the survey was encouraging and exceeded commonly accepted response rates in marketing surveys. For the purposes of this study we make an estimation of total users based on a sample of 1521 registered users on the University Information Technology Services at Indiana University’s download site for the IndianaMap Orthophotography. These users download and use IndianaMap data on their own systems. They include government regulators, engineers, utilities, realtors, appraisers, mining companies, researchers, planning officials, and teachers. Three hundred fourteen (314) responses were received from May to July of 2008. This is a 20% response rate (approximately +/- 6% margin of error3) and is nearly four times the rate considered acceptable» in the marketing industry.
Because the IndianaMap has many different users, as well as emerging and unknown new uses and repeated uses over time, placing a quantitative valuation on it is an extremely complex problem. Our approach is similar to that taken by mineral economists’ Bhagwat and Ipe» in their pioneering report “Economic Benefits of Detailed Geologic Mapping to Kentucky.” Their approach is a retrospective study to first estimate the value to an individual map user and then to extend that value to all the possible map users over time to get an estimate of the aggregate
benefits of a mapping program. This approach is applicable to the IndianaMap as we can conduct a retrospective study based on currently available maps and the 2005
Statewide Orthophotography Project. Slightly modifying Bhagwat and Ipe’s method to our purpose, we developed a study of the economic benefits of the IndianaMap to demonstrate the value of statewide map data, period of return, and a positive business case for funding the
ongoing creation and maintenance of statewide framework data.
First, input was sought on the total costs of projects and/or operations that are supported
by the IndianaMap. Of 314 responses, 69% (216 responses) provided information on the total cost of their projects and/or operations. Of those responses, some indicated a range in the cost of projects and operations. To maintain a conservative perspective, we consistently used
the lesser values in cases where a range in costs The IndianaMap was indicated. Many of those not responding indicated that total costs were difficult for them to estimate. The respondents identify $1,751,000,145 in Indiana projects and government operations that are supported by the IndianaMap. In addition, of those providing project cost information, 90% indicated that IndianaMap orthophotography was essential to their operations (defined as “project requires high resolution/accuracy data, maybe supplemented with other data; couldn’t do project without it”) and 6% indicated orthophotography was of secondary necessity (defined as “project requires other data that depend on high resolution/ accuracy imagery to create, align, verify, and/or maintain those data”). These projects range from statewide to discrete area projects.
The results of the survey clearly indicate that over $1.7 billion in Indiana projects and government operations are supported by the IndianaMap. In short, this means that an initial investment of $8.5 million in the IndianaMap supports over 200-times its value in projects and operations—with 90% of users indicating they could not do their projects without it. The IndianaMap is by definition a public good— those goods that, once they have been produced,
are available to all, without exclusion. While the IndianaMap has many of the characteristics
of a resource, a commodity, a capital asset andinfrastructure, it does not fit neatly into any of these categories. The difficulty in assigning a particular role to the IndianaMap reflects, to a large extent, the diffuse, and hence extensive, impact that it has on the economy. The gains from the IndianaMap can be categorized into three types:
These tangible, measurable, economic impacts only partially reflect the contribution of the IndianaMap. Consideration must also be given to the social gains resulting from the use of the IndianaMap products. Such an analysis is, by its very nature, largely of a qualitative nature, but it is important to ensure that the monetary estimate deduced in this study does not detract the reader from the wider importance of the IndianaMap.
Emergency Response Maps
After 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, the lack of coordinated information and interoperable communications had tragic consequences. Citizens around the country demanded that government work together to correct otherwise avoidable problems. Most people have heard about two-way radios in the debate over interoperable communications, but fewer realize the important role digital mapping plays in coordinated information and emergency response. Digital mapping of government data, utilities, and infrastructure (collectively referred to as “spatial” or “geospatial” information) has become a cornerstone of information management and communication at all levels of government. However, that spatial information is not yet coordinated across government agencies nor geographical regions. When an electric crew from Indiana helps restore power after an ice storm in Atlanta, GA, the need for coordinated spatial information is great. When a 911 cell phone call from an Illinois roadside gets routed to a dispatch center in Iowa, the need for coordinated spatial information is great. Similar examples of this need are remarkable and nearly limitless.
All Data Are Local
All data are local – and current sources of nation-wide (or world-wide) map data and services typically do not reflect authoritative (local government) sources of what is locally on the ground. Most sources lack vital information in less populated areas. Most sources take months or years with their data update cycles. (A notable exception is the growing openstreetmap.org, though not “authoritative” this “volunteered” map data making is a difference to emergency response around the world). Building a National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) has been a stated goal of the federal government and many geospatial professionals for over a decade. In those years, many obstacles and delays have prevented the realization of a vision for our nations information infrastructure. An infrastructure that promises to improve the health, safety and welfare of our citizenry, as well as provide more efficient use of tax payer dollars. By and large, technology is no longer the obstacle – it is human. The obstacles reflect a resistance to change and fear of the unknown by policy-makers and stewards of local spatial data (How will this change how we do business? How will it affect the privacy of our citizens? Will it reveal we are doing things “wrong”? How will we fund it? Knowledge is power – will we be giving that up by making our data available to others? Will our own data be used against us?). But there is also danger in complacency of those responsible for building the NSDI. As resistance to change takes a strong hold, the status quo becomes more and more comfortable. Building the NSDI is hard (What if we can’t get cooperation? What if the funding runs short? What if we have technology glitches? How do we keep things running once it is built?). And making the decision to go – not to talk about doing it, but REALLY do it – is difficult. This assertion is not meant to point fingers, rather it is an effort to remind us all of where our challenges lie – sometimes even within ourselves. Institutional inertia is strong and personal risk is real for those who challenge long-standing institutional practices. Those risks, and accompanied inertia, can make the realization of SSDIs and the NSDI even more distant. As we look to our nations future, we must decide if the NSDI is really what we want (do we really want the NSDI, or do we really want to keep doing what we are doing, supporting our satisfied customers, keep a low profile, keep talking about the vision?).
We Just Decided to Go. (you can too)
Several states are taking the reigns and deciding to go by building complimentary Statewide Spatial Data Infrastructures (SSDIs) as a means to get at the NSDI. Organizations like the National States Geographic Information Council are helping to put form on this approach. As in business, there is no real status quo – there is either forward progress or we are slipping. Indiana is one such state that can say “we just decided to go.” Earlier this year, Indiana’s Geographic Information Officer, statewide coordinating council (www.igic.org), and handful of state agencies asked local governments across the state to participate in the IndianaMap (Indiana’s SSDI). The road has been long and not without challenges (e.g., see news stories “Commissioners reluctant to give out mapping information“ and follow up story “Commissioners OK state’s mapping request”). But deciding to go has resulted in 28 (of 92) counties signing on to participate within the first 6 months of the request, and over half the state’s population being covered. While difficult, the result is definite progress toward coordinated information and interoperable communications for Indiana.
Those states who have committed to creating their own SSDIs have taken commendable steps to assure forward progress. Without exception it has taken cooperation and strong leadership. Those who just decided to go – let’s do this thing, and get’er done – are making real progress. It would be impossible otherwise.
IndianaMap Return on Investment Study
Role: Project conceptualization, funding, research and analysis, presentation development. Click here to download the complete report.
“… Perhaps the best marketing for 1) coordination, 2) public domain information, and 3) GIS/mapping in general I’ve seen anywhere. In no small part because people actually read them.”
Steve Aichele, USGS Geospatial Liaison to Michigan
“It was one of the most interesting and informative final reports I have seen.”
Gita Urban-Mathieux, Federal Geographic Data Committee
The Ramona GIS Inventory is produced by the National States’ Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) as a tool for states and their partners. Its primary purpose is to track the status of GIS in US state and local government to aid the planning and building of Spatial Data Infrastructures. Ramona is designed to work in concert with Geospatial One Stop (www.geodata.gov).
Role: Project conceptualization, needs assessment, technical project management, training, documentation (in cooperation with BurGIS, LLC and Runskip, LLC).
“When emergencies strike, I go to the GIS Inventory first to find other GIS experts in the area of the event. It helps me connect with them to perform my support role for state and local government.”
Christina McCullough, Geospatial Analyst, B.A., Joint Forces Headquarters of Indiana
“This increased the opportunity to have the imagery products be in line with existing county products.”
Chris Kannan, former USGS NSDI Liaison for North Carolina
IndianaMap Statewide Orthophotography Project
In 2005, Indiana completed a first of its kind high-resolution statewide single-season aerial photography project to support Indiana’s most pressing homeland security, economic development, and environmental issues. The public domain imagery is available at www.indianamap.org and on GoogleMaps.
Role: Project coordination, requirements definition, development of funding partners, overall project management (in cooperation with multiple collaborating partners).
Youth groups across Indiana were invited to participate in the Huck Finn Project by producing large outdoor works of art to be captured by the IndianaMap orthophotography. In the process, kids tracked the planes and learned about geography, geospatial technology, scale and resolution, and more. Lesson plans were developed by the Indiana Geographic Educators’ Network, and GPS units were provided to participating youth groups.
Role: Project conceptulization, web site development, content, coordination.
GIS Issue Briefing
A series of subject area issue briefs authored by project steering committee members and other contributors who have been engaged to support the Information for Indiana project work through activities such as conducting case studies and assisting in pilot project initiation and implementation.
Press Release For Immediate Release October 29, 2007 Press Contact: Mehgan O’Connor moconnor@iot.IN.gov 317.234.4589 317.979.0877
Governor Appoints State’s First Geographic Information Officer INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Chief Information Officer Gerry Weaver today announced Governor Mitch Daniels’ appointment of Jim Sparks as the state’s first Geographic Information Officer. Sparks, whose first day with the state is today, will oversee the coordination of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) efforts across all state agencies and work with the Indiana Geographic Information Council, Inc. (IGIC) to adopt and implement the state’s GIS data policies, standards and statewide data integration plan. GIS technology works by linking information stored in databases to a place or location on a map. Users query the data, which is presented in maps, tables and other graphic representations. Since 80% of all government information has a geographic component, the power of GIS can be widely used to support decision-making and problem-solving across all sectors – public, private and not-for-profit. Sparks, an experienced geography and mapping professional, has extensive knowledge of geographic information systems (GIS) technology and experience in administration, policy development and planning. “Having a dedicated GIS expert in Indiana government pushes our capabilities to the next level,” said Weaver. “Working with the state’s current GIS talent, Sparks will create a consistent framework of statewide public maps and data for all levels of government that will help save lives and money and improve government efficiency.” To continue the coordination of enterprise information technology solutions that save the state, and ultimately taxpayers’, time and money, Sparks will report directly to Weaver, who oversees state IT.
About the Indiana Office of Technology (IOT) – The Indiana Office of Technology is an internal service agency that was created by Governor Mitch Daniels on January 10, 2005. Its mission is to provide cost-effective, secure, consistent, reliable enterprise technology services to its partner agencies so they can better serve Hoosier taxpayers. For more information about IOT, please visit http://iot.IN.gov .