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Communicating Value of GIS to Policy-Makers

Over the past several years, I have been involved in leading the Indiana Geographic Information Council and developing a statewide spatial data infrastructure, known today as the IndianaMap. Let’s face it, GIS is a complex technology, and that can be intimidating.  A statewide (or national for that matter) spatial data infrastructure requires adherence to data and technology standards, strong collaborations, coordinated funding, and more.

In 2006, the IndianaMap Return on Investment (RIO) Study proved the value of the IndianaMap as an investment in Indiana.

The challenge was, how best to communicate those results? The report was presented in an unconventional “newspaper” format directed at the target audience – primarily legislators and other elected officials. The format provided the advantages of attention-grabbing headlines; topical organization (for example, transportation, economic development, and environment), and photo-documented case studies. The paper was printed on full-sized news-stock and folded like a traditional newspaper, with room for a mailing address on the reverse 1/2 fold.

IndianaMapNews-singlepagelayout

The ROI analysis identified current GIS spending, duplication of effort, needs, benefits, financial and non-financial return. The objective of the project was to substantiate adequate funding (or establish cost sharing mechanisms) to support and enable the operation. The results of the ROI demonstrate that over $1.7 billion in Indiana projects and programs are supported by the IndianaMap, with 90% of respondents indicating that the IndianaMap was essential to their project. A 34:1 ROI in less than three years was documented. The entire study was supplemented by additional qualitative use-benefits, testimonials, and case studies.

The Economic Benefits of the IndianaMap return on investment study was conducted by Saligoe-Simmel, LLC and the Indiana Geographic Information Council (IGIC). The study was supported by a grant from the Federal Geographic Data Committee Cooperative Agreements Program Grant Agreement Number: 07HQAG0042. Download the PDF.

Designed & Illustrated by Matt Kelm

The Economic Benefits of the IndianaMap

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.

$1.7 Billion Supported by the IndianaMap

Stories documenting how the IndianaMap is used are presented throughout this report, IndianaMap Return on Investment. 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 the meaning of “electronic map” as set forth in Indiana Code 5-14-3-2(d) 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.

untitled-image-3Like 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:

  • Discover what types of projects are utilizing the IndianaMap.
  • Identify the priority placed on the different types of IndianaMap framework data by the users.
  • Assess the importance of the IndianaMap in projects and operations by the users.
  • Determine how the IndianaMap contributes to the quality and cost of the user’s work.
  • Estimate the dollar value of the IndianaMap to end users.

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.

METHODOLOGY

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 [slider title=”considered acceptable”]Van Bennekom, F. (2003) www.greatbrook.com[/slider] 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’ [slider title=”Bhagwat and Ipe”]Bhagwat, S.B., and Ipe, V.C. 2000. The economic benefits of detailed geologic mapping to Kentucky. Illinois State Geological Survey Special Report 3, 39 p.[/slider] 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.

CONCLUSION

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:

  • Increases in efficiency, so that the same task can be performed with fewer, often significantly fewer, resources.
  • Increases in effectiveness, so that the same task can be performed with greater accuracy and fewer mistakes.
  • New products and services, which could not have been produced without this new
    technology.

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.

The Economic Benefits of the IndianaMap return on investment study was conducted by Saligoe-Simmel, LLC and the Indiana Geographic Information Council (IGIC). The study was supported by a grant from the Federal Geographic Data Committee Cooperative Agreements Program Grant Agreement Number: 07HQAG0042.

Keep Your Eye on the Geospatial Revolution Project

Whether you are a lone GIS technician or a large GIS company, education and outreach is an ongoing challenge for everyone in the geospatial industry. The Geospatial Revolution Project was announced about a month ago and I was overly impressed with the goals and production value. It was too bad the wait-time was going to be long for final production. Today I received news that the GRP team will release short video segments throughout the life of the project rather than waiting for them all at the end. They are starting today by making the trailer downloadable. This is a high-quality video that will be useful with the general public and decision-makers (and family members who haven’t got it yet ;). Think about ways you might include the video clip in your community presentations, GIS day, school outreach, or the “About GIS” section of your website. See below for details – what a fantastic resource.
georev Read more

The Importance of Map Data Interoperability

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.