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., and, 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.


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)[/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.


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

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.

Guidance From Above: IndianaMap Across Indiana

Over the past several months, I worked with producer Aric Hartvig of WFYI to document some of the uses and benefits of the IndianaMap for their series Across Indiana. In 2005, Indiana developed very high resolution orthophotography (aerial photography) as part of a single, consistent digital base map for geographic information systems — called the IndianaMap. The photography has made quite an impact –saving money, time, and lives by making an accurate base map available to everyone. This segment from WFYI documents some of those benefits.

Featured in the video are several Indiana Geographic Information Council members, including: Anna Radue – Indiana University UITS; Jim Binkley, Scottsburg Municipal Electric Utility; Nathan Eaton, Indiana Geological Survey; Brooke Gajownik, Hamilton County Sheriffs Office; Jill Saligoe-Simmel, Indiana Geographic Information Council.

Thanks WFYI!