IndianaMap Running at 100%

Indiana Geographic Information Office Hits 100% with Data Sharing Project

With a vote of its County Board of Commissioners in early April, Marshall County become the last of ninety-two Indiana Counties to share four critical geospatial data sets with the Indiana Geographic Information Office. This exceptional level of County-State cooperation, and the important statewide data created by the project, validates the concept of a local-to-state-to-national approach to building and maintaining a National Map.   Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and data generally, and these four county level data sets in particular, support public safety and economic development, and provide geographic context for a myriad of government policy decisions about everything from natural resources to voting precincts. Beginning in 2008, the Indiana Geographic Office joined with other GIS partners to develop, integrate, and publish the following four statewide geographic data layers using existing county data:

  • Land Parcels
  • Address Points (that connect a street address with a geographic coordinate)
  • Street Centerlines (with street name and address ranges)
  • Local Administrative Boundaries (such as school and election districts)

With the addition of Marshall County, Indiana has complete statewide coverage of these data, thereby increasing the value and usefulness for all Indiana citizens.

“I love working with Hoosiers!” said Jim Sparks, Indiana’s Geographic Information Officer, a position created by state statute in 2007 and responsible for coordinating GIS across all levels of government, academia, and the private sector.  “One-hundred percent voluntary participation in this important County-State project is a testament to our active and engaged Indiana GIS community.  We are all working collaboratively to improve the quality of life for Hoosiers by supporting economic development, public safety, transportation, and government and private sector efficiency through the availability of these critical data.”

As a result of the  data sharing project, these layers are already being used by the Indiana State Police, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Natural Resources, and the Secretary of State’s office, as well as colleges, universities, the private sector, and the counties from which the data originated.

Public safety was a key incentive for many of the counties to participate in the statewide project. David Vice, Executive Director of the Indiana Integrated Public Safety Commission remarked, “When agencies share data, lives are saved and public offices become more efficient.  Sharing data encourages collaboration among agencies, provides for informed decision-making and reduces redundancy of data production.  Further, planning and policy groups become better informed, particularly in terms of emergency calls and disaster response.  We can be proud that all 92 counties are now sharing their map data, a major milestone that will benefit all Indiana taxpayers.”

These data layers, along with other geographic information are freely available to the public from the IndianaMap (, a web-based data portal, viewer, and download tool which has demonstrated a 34 to 1 return on investment (  Given that 80% or more of government data has a geographic component, it is not surprising that Indiana government agencies, universities, and private sector companies have received significant benefit from the 240-plus layers of publicly available, highly accurate, and current geospatial information offered for viewing and download at the IndianaMap.  The data contributed by all 92 Indiana counties adds even more value to the IndianaMap.

The Indiana Geographic Information Office is located within the Indiana Office of Technology and was created by state statute in 2007 to facilitate GIS data cooperation between units of the federal, state, and local governments; integrate GIS data and framework data into a statewide base map; develop and maintain statewide framework data layers; provide public access to GIS data and framework data in locations throughout Indiana; and serve as Geographic Information Officer for state agencies. 

The GIS Office contributes to the quality of Indiana as a place to live and work by cultivating statewide geographic information resources (relationships, data and technology) so that individuals and organizations across the state have appropriate access to accurate and relevant geographic information and technology.

Support the Geospatial Data Act

The Geospatial Data Act of 2015 was introduced in Congress today.  This bipartisan bill will go a long way toward correcting inadequacies of the federal government regarding management geospatial data and National Spatial Data Infrastructure.  This bill was assigned to a congressional committee, which will consider it before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole.

Geospatial professionals can support the Geospatial Data Act by contacting your senators and congressional representatives today to let them know why the Act is important both to your state and the nation, and if possible to offer your expertise helping them interpret the technical aspects of the Act.

Date: Monday, March 16, 2015
Subject: JOINT RELEASE: Hatch, Warner Introduce Bipartisan Geospatial Data Act



March 16, 2015

Media Contacts:
Matt Whitlock (Hatch): 202-228-0210
Rachel Cohen (Warner): 202-228-6884

JOINT RELEASE – Hatch, Warner Introduce Bipartisan Geospatial Data Act

Washington, D.C.— U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch, R-UT, and John Warner, D-VA, issued the following statements after introducing the bipartisan Geospatial Data Act.

Sen. Hatch said, “The federal government wastes vast amounts of taxpayer dollars by not properly managing and coordinating our federal investments in geospatial data. This commonsense legislation will improve coordination, reduce duplication, and promote data transparency.”

“Geospatial data has endless possibilities for transforming both the private and public sectors — from helping local governments develop emergency preparedness plans to fueling the creation of apps that let you find parking spots, restaurants, and even homes for sale based on where you’re standing,” said Sen. Warner. “The federal government is the largest purchaser of geospatial data but some very basic questions about how and where agencies are already investing in this data can’t be answered. Our bill would bring transparency and accountability to the collection of this data and ensure that taxpayer dollars are not being wasted on duplicative efforts.”

Shelby D. Johnson, President of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) said, “People believe that the United States of America has a robust system of maps and digital data. We don’t, but we should. The federal government was never given the tools to do the job right. This Act is a good step toward solving the problems, and our members strongly support it. We also applaud Senator Hatch and Senator Warner for their foresight in dealing with this problem.”

Matthew Chase, executive director of the National Association of Counties, said, “GIS data is an important tool for counties when it comes to making land use decisions, maintaining infrastructure, and responding to emergencies. We support this bill because counties need accurate, modern mapping data to perform key duties and deliver services to their residents. We commend Senators Hatch and Warner for introducing this legislation and urge their colleagues to join them in supporting it.


Geospatial data is the information that identifies the geographic location and characteristics of natural or constructed features, such as wells, roads, or forests. The federal government has recognized the need to organize and coordinate the collection and management of this data since at least 1990, when the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) most recently revised Circular A-16 to establish the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) and to promote the coordinated use, sharing, and dissemination of geospatial data nationwide. Unfortunately the progress made over the last two decades has been inadequate. The federal government needs to improve management of geospatial data across the board.

The Geospatial Data Act will codify and strengthen OMB Circular A-16 and require federal agencies to implement international consensus standards, assist in eliminating duplication, avoid redundant expenditures, accelerate the development of electronic government to meet the needs and expectations of citizens and agency programmatic mandates, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of public management.

Additionally, the bill will provide a clear definition for geospatial data and metadata, will require an accounting of the costs associated with the acquisition or creation of geospatial data, and will improve government transparency and availability to public information.

Following requests from Senators Hatch, Warner, Risch, and Carper, the Government Accountability Office recently published their third report on the issue, entitled “Geospatial Data—Progress Needed on Identifying Expenditures, Building and Utilizing a Data Infrastructure, and Reducing Duplicative Efforts.” The report outlined the intrinsic value of geospatial data, and recommended various measures for better coordination of geospatial activities.

Report Card on the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI)

The Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO) announces the release of its Report Card on the U.S. National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) that depicts the condition and performance of the nation’s geospatial “infrastructure” which includes surveyed, mapped and remotely-sensed information.

This initial Report Card by the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO) is a qualitative assessment of the status of the Framework data components of that program. This evaluation specifically examines the status of the seven data themes that serve as the backbone required by users to conduct most mapping and geospatial analysis tasks. While Framework data have been collected and made available for use over the past two decades, a digital geospatial Framework that is national in scope, is not yet in place and may never exist. Based on the following analysis, the overall grade assigned to the comprehensive NSDI Framework is C-.

The clear objective of the NSDI was to create a dependable utility that would provide accurate, consistent, and current data to all users. The goals of the program were to:

• Reduce duplication of effort among agencies.

• Improve the quality of data and reduce costs related to the acquisition of geographic information.

• Make geographic data more accessible to the public.

• Increase the benefits of using available data.

• Establish key partnerships with states, counties, cities, tribal nations, academia, and the private sector, to increase the availability of geographic data.

The NSDI includes a number of connected components, including the technology, policies, standards, and human resources necessary to acquire, process, store, distribute, and improve the utilization of geospatial data. However, the cornerstone of the program is a common digital base map that would aggregate the best representations of fundamental data from all levels of government.

In light of the two decade history of the NSDI, and this realistic assessment of the current situation, the Expert Panel concludes that the Framework requires attention, and that several actions need to take place:

  • The concept of the Framework needs to be reaffirmed.
  • A new model for Framework data needs to be adopted, and this new model must acknowledge the importance of local partners.
  • The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) needs to emphasize that the Framework is part of its Strategic Plan, and that it will work in collaboration with non-federal and non-governmental partners to build an effective NSDI Framework.
  • Bossler, Dr. John D., Dr. David J. Cowen, James E. Geringer, Susan Carson Lambert, John J. Moeller, Thomas D. Rust, Robert T. Welch. Report Card on the U.S. National Spatial Data Infrastructure – Compiled for the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations. February 6, 2015.

National GIS Inventory

The GIS Inventory is a system maintained by the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) as a tool for the entire GIS Community. It allows users to quickly search for GIS data to meet their business requirements. It also helps government agencies to effectively coordinate and build Spatial Data Infrastructures.

Its primary purpose is to track data availability and the status of geographic information system (GIS) implementation in state and local governments to aid the planning and building of statewide spatial data infrastructures (SSDI). The system moves its FGDC-compliant metadata (CSDGM Standard) for each data layer to a web folder and a Catalog Service for the Web (CSW) that can be harvested by Federal programs and others. This provides far greater opportunities for discovery of your information.

The GIS Inventory (a.k.a. “Ramona”) was originally created in 2006 by NSGIC under award NA04NOS4730011 from the Coastal Services Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The Department of Homeland Security has been the principal funding source since 2008 and they have supported the development of subsequent versions. Currently, funding is being provided through DHS contract HSHQDC-12-00104. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have provided additional resources to maintain and improve the GIS Inventory.

The GIS Inventory is maintained by individual users that document their own organizational information and data holdings. The National Cadastral Inventory is maintained by key cadastral contacts in each state to support their unique business requirements. The long-term goal is to merge both systems to provide even better services and features for their users.

As a former Board Member of the National States Geographic Information Council, Jill Saligoe-Simmel helped conceptualize this nationwide project and secure initial grant funding. Project design, requirements assessment and management at various stages by BurGIS LLC, Saligoe-Simmel LLC, A.J. Wortley and Fairview Industries. Jill continues to provide technical assistance to the project. GIS Inventory website, system, and database design by RunSkip, LLC.

IndianaMap Awarded First Prize at FOSS4G for Open Data

The IndianaMap was awarded first place at the 2014 FOSS4G, September 11, 2014 Portland, Oregon.

The IndianaMap is composed of over 300 laters of open geospatial data. It was recently recognized as a “Notable Document” by the American Library Association and serves as an example of local, regional, and state data sharing. Web Feature Services are harvested monthly from counties and assembled as statewide layers distributed through the IndianaMap. The data partnership has resulted in nearly statewide coverage of parcels, address points, local jurisdiction boundaries, and street centerlines where data stewardship remains at the local authoritative level.

The IndianaMap won in the category of best open source data integration:

16 notable maps were called out in 8 different categories.

  • Best open source data integration. Awarded to the map which makes the most innovative use of open source data. the map need not use a wide variety of sources or be entirely composed of open data sources but the open source component must be well marshaled, purposeful and a core component of the final map.

View the IndianaMap

IndianaMap submission by Justin Peters (Indiana Geological Survey), Indiana Geographic Information Council, State of Indiana GIO.

Natural Earth Data: Worldwide GIS Maps

If you’ve ever tried to find good, authoritative sources of free, public domain small-scale world map data you know it can be a daunting task. But not for long.

Natural Earth is a public domain map dataset available at 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110 million scales. Featuring tightly integrated vector and raster data, with Natural Earth you can make a variety of visually pleasing, well-crafted maps with cartography or GIS software. It is 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 allows 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 are able to map at the continent and country levels (including showing provinces and some local cities, regional, and “world” cities).

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 was 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.

Making Natural Earth is a collaboration involving many volunteer NACIS members and cartographers around the globe. Jill Saligoe-Simmel, Mapdiva LLC, volunteered her time as a Research + Production Cartographer collaborating with the team managing the first release of worldwide country administrative units.

Save the Data – Stop Transparency Cutbacks

Some of the most important technology programs that keep Washington accountable are in danger of being eliminated.,, the IT Dashboard and other federal data transparency and government accountability programs are facing a massive budget cut, despite only being a tiny fraction of the national budget. Help save the data and make sure that Congress doesn’t leave the American people in the dark.

Sunlight Foundation – Stop Transparency Cutbacks

Is IT Suffocating GIS?

In an article “Why Geo Will Embrace The Cloud in 2010” in Direction MagazineBrian Timoney of the The Timoney Group looks at the emerging cloud computing arena and poises the question, fad or not? Putting that question aside for the moment, part of Brian’s article really struck a chord with me – “IT is suffocating GIS.” As a former statewide GIS coordinator, I’ve seen all too many enthusiastic GIS professionals sucked down this path. Brian articulates something rarely discussed – issues like burn-out in the long since changed role of GIS managers. Are we properly preparing GIS professionals for this aspect of their GIS career? Here is an excerpt of Brian’s article: Read more

A Call for an Open Spatial Data Infrastructure

In full disclosure, this is a soap-box issue of mine. I’ve long been a vocal advocate of open public data in the geospatial arena.

The “open” provides us all the opportunity to build common spatial data infrastructures so critical to addressing public, private, and broader societal needs. Here I express concern that even with the most open of data, we may yet be compounding vital problems regarding a critical goal of spatial data infrastructures: authoritative and consistent data. Consistency is key, in my humble opinion.

One needs only to look so far as pleas such as in Jonathan Feldman’s recent article “How To Fix The GIS Data Mess” to see how consistent data shared among all potential users is much needed and desired. In my own experience, beyond accuracy and unfettered access to geospatial data, consistency of those data among users is critical. When agencies and organizations rely on geospatial data for critical decision making and those data differ, the decisions based on those data will necessarily differ, notwithstanding the best intentions.

Is it emergency responders and non-profit agencies looking at different authoritative data sources to deploy rescue efforts to your pets and family members? Is it the construction crew, development company, city, and recreational group looking to difference data sources when trails are cleared for that latest building project? Data consistency is vital – for public safety and for the public interest. Consistency (and with it I’m implying shared maintenance) is key to helping control costs.

I am a big fan of efforts such as Open Street Map (OSM) in democratizing geospatial data. This is an effort to be applauded. Clearly the sweeping early success of such effort, particularly in those areas of the world where geospatial data are less public than the US, demonstrates that people are ready and eager to create and support open data sources; I am myself. But I lend a word of caution as well… What do we do when other authoritative data that are open already exist? How do we determine authoritative? How do we share maintenance? These questions remain largely unanswered.

Members of the National States’ Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) are working with public and private organizations at all levels to address these very questions.

In Indiana for example, the community is working together to overcome institutional obstacles and build a statewide spatial data infrastructure that is open and consistent (see the Indiana Geographic Information Council). Local agencies are providing data publicly, such as street centerlines and parcel boundaries, and the state is integrating and publishing rather than duplicating those efforts. The state is contributing as well, not only through coordination and infrastructure, but also with statewide data sets such as aerial photography that make sense to maintain at a broader scale. And the effort doesn’t stop there. With university participation, those data are made public (view and download) through the IndianaMap. They are provided to federal agencies, such as U.S. Census for map modernization. In recognition that not everyone comes to government sources for their decision-making, statewide aerial photography (2005) was shipped to Google and Microsoft to integrate into their map services.

Such a model holds out a glimmer of hope that statewide, national, and international spatial data infrastructures are not only possible, but also within reach. However, even with such open data, when the process is ill-defined and under-funded we may miss the target. How, for instance, will the IndianaMap data be incorporated into other open source efforts the likes of OSM? With a desire by all parties, how might maintenance be addressed? These questions remain unanswered.

We must continue to strive for solutions which focus on process. Consistent data are key in the potential for geospatial data to solve problems at the most local to the most global of scales. While I agree any data may be viewed as better than no data at all, a preponderance of inconsistent data may prove no better with regard to vital issues. There are inherent problems when local data (cities and counties) differ from state data, differ from federal, private, non-profit, and open data. This is where a National Spatial Data Infrastructure is necessary.

Indiana Statewide Orthophotography Program

In 2005, Indiana introduced an ambitious Statewide Orthophotography Program provided a “common operating picture” through a seamless, current, accurate photographic base and control network that “ties” all other framework (base map) and critical infrastructure GIS data sets together. It was the foundation of today’s IndianaMap – a statewide, seamless, highly accurate, locally built and publicly available geographic data infrastructure.

Problem: For homeland security, GIS data need to be accurate, seamless statewide, current, and accessible.
  • The scale of the data must meet the demands of its most demanding users – local government.
  • The Access to Public Records law exception for GIS data presents significant challenges for getting and compiling local GIS data.
  • Differing local government business models present severe challenges for getting and compiling local GIS data.
  • High accuracies are required to support mapping of other framework and critical infrastructure data.
  • A lack of standards, consistency and lack of interoperability present significant technical limitations to integrating disparate data sets to gain seamlessness.

The 2005 Statewide Orthophotography Project modernized a critical component of the state’s information infrastructure through a high accuracy base map that is seamless statewide, current, and accessible.

The project supports the strategy of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure ( The same framework data are available to cross-cutting applications (homeland security, emergency management, economic development, environmental, e-911, Flood Insurance Rate Map modernization, Census data modernization, GASB-34, etc.).

Jill Saligoe-Simmel provided overall project design and management from conceptualization through delivery.

  • conceptualized and developed detailed program to support the Indiana Spatial Data Infrastructure and requirements of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security
  • maintained commitments as open public domain imagery, while meeting homeland security requirements
  • garnered community and partner support
  • secured cooperative local, state and federal investment of over $5.5 million for project implementation
  • outreach to funders and policy makers through written and oral presentations
  • provided regular communications with a community of over 350 stakeholders, including local, regional, state and federal government, private sector, universities, utilities, and non-profits through email, website, newsletters, presentations and group meetings
  • recruited and coordinated expert technical advisory team to develop specifications and write the request for proposal (RFP)
  • coordinated expert advisory panel / selection committee
  • reviewed and approved contractor work and deliverables in partnership with IMAGIS Program Director, Jim Stout
  • coordinated the “buy-up” to higher resolution data by individual county emergency management directors
  • coordinated team of experts through Indiana University and Purdue University to support mass data storage archival services and public data delivery, including integration through the IndianaMap portal
  • negotiated inclusion and delivery of the IndianaMap as authoritative imagery in GoogleMaps and Microsoft TeraServer