Posts

Building a National Data Sharing Infrastructure

In March, 2014, URISA published the first in what is intended to be a series of occasional GIS Management Institute® discussion papers. “A Distributed Model for Effective National Geospatial Data Management: Building a National Data Sharing Infrastructure,” by Jim Sparks (State of Indiana GIO), Philip Worrall (Indiana Geographic Information Council Executive Director), and Kevin Mickey (Indiana University Polis Center Geospatial Education Director).

While Indiana’s history with building a spatial data infrastructure has been short relative to several other’s, its track record is impressive. In the late 1990’s the Federal Geographic Data Committee awarded a small grant to a small group of likeminded GIS professionals in Indiana in hopes of starting something – anything really – to boost GIS coordination in the state. The 2000’s brought sweeping change, including developing a not-for-profit council, voluntary standards, GIS data sharing and metadata initiatives, statewide data collection programs, multi-level governmental support, and instituting the IndianaMap. In 2009, the IndianaMap partners quietly released the first view of a multi-county parcel database. Today the IndianaMap hosts and freely delivers the nearly complete framework – map data sourced from local agencies – along with dozens of other statewide and regional data sets (more than 230 layers of GIS data, Indiana Geological Survey). These data are served for viewing and free download to the public and rolled-up all the way to the federal level into The National Map.

This important paper examines a number of impediments to effective data development and data sharing and offer solutions that reflect the employment of effective coordination, carefully directed funding, and the application of current information technology tools and strategies. It summarizes the best practices that the authors believe should be applied nationwide to maintain local control of processes while achieving the broad goals of the National Map. The authors provide a summary of how Indiana has met one of its biggest challenges over the years – how to create a viable, sustainable technical data collection, storage, and distribution infrastructure and the human resources to manage and maintain it.

While the NSDI concept has spanned decades, the realization of a nationwide local-to-statewide-to-national NSDI has been elusive. This paper presents case studies from across the nation. It evaluates what practices have proven to work, and also those that have proven not to work. With it, we may yet get closer to realizing an NSDI.

Read the full paper here.

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

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.
Solution

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 (http://www.fgdc.gov/nsdi/nsdi.html). 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

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.

Top 10 Sectors Using GIS in Indiana

This study was conducted to determine how mapping departments within local and state government, education, non-profits and private industry use geographic information systems map data every day. In 2008, 312 respondents told how they use GIS.

Here are the top ten use-areas among the public and private sector:

01 Transportation

For trains, planes and automobiles there are numerous government agencies, surveying and engineering firms, and community organizations who use the IndianaMap for proposed transportation routes, environmental assessments, infrastructure management, airport and roadway improvements, maintenance, accident locations, new facilities, emergency response and evacuation, state and federal reporting requirements, and system-wide transportation management

02 Utilities

Public and private utilities use the IndianaMap in their customer billing systems, routing meter-reading and inspections, load-testing, infrastructure planning and improvement, “call before you dig” locations, and emergency response

03 Natural Resources

Public, private, and non-profit organizations use the IndianaMap on a daily basis to protect endangered species and habitat, manage natural resource exploration and exploitation, protect the public from natural hazards such as flooding and earthquakes, manage wildlife for hunting and fishing, maintain parks and facilities, and manage forests, fish and wildlife for the benefit of all Hoosiers

04 Economic Development

We may not know when the next major corporation is looking at Indiana for their new home, but with the IndianaMap they can quickly see why the Hoosier state stands out; Indiana’s economic developers use the IndianaMap to locate sites for potential development, plan tax incentive zones, clear regulatory requirements, help existing businesses, and attract new business for a growing economy

05 Engineering/Surveying

Whether used for preliminary survey work, evaluating impacts to home owners, or managing construction phases, the IndianaMap saves hundreds of thousands of dollars when new developments are planned, bridges built, levees are constructed, pipelines are routed, and much, much more

06 Planning/Land Use

Communities and planning organizations use the IndianaMap to visualize land use patterns and trends, zoning, plan developments, acquire state and federal grants, and improve quality of life factors as part of “smart growth” initiatives; developers, assessors, and real estate professionals use it to look at current the landscape and changes over time

07 Infrastructure

From bridges to telecommunications, communities use the IndianaMap to assess and maintain their infrastructure, including Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) reporting requirements

08 Environmental

Government agencies entrusted with the responsibility of protecting our environment use the IndianaMap to track and manage regulated facilities and on-the-ground hazards, improve the environment through remediation, conservation, and preservation, and to communicate with citizens; private and non-profit organizations use the same consistent map information for conservation and preservation, and to assure environmental compliance within areas of new development, existing sites, and areas of concern

09 Wastewater/Stormwater

From flooding, to community growth, to modernizing outdated sewer overflows and protecting public health, utilities and communities use the IndianaMap to see where the water goes and manage the impact of that flow

10 Public Safety

The IndianaMap saves lives—it helps quickly get emergency responders to where they need to go; as an interoperable communications tool it is used for community preparedness, examining locations of shelters, warning sirens, population concentrations, critical infrastructure, and local resources; it is used by police, fire, hospital, health departments, Indiana National Guard, homeland security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Civil Air Patrol, the Red Cross, and others for all phases of disaster response and recovery; it is used daily as police patrol our streets and fight crime; it is used by corrections personnel to track geographic-restrictions and compliance of sex and violent offenders.

For more information, view the complete report (3.4MB PDF).