Scott Gregory, California's geographic information officer, held a Google Hangout presentation Wednesday on the state's plans for a new Geoportal and other initiatives that will enable the public to more readily access California GIS information held by federal, state tribal, city and county agencies. Gregory said that 85 percent of all public-sector data has a geographic component, and while the state has compiled much of the state's geo data, it has not been easily accessible to those who need it.

"GIS is the single most transformative technology that government can engage in," said Gregory, who explained that GIS provides a visual location-based view of data that helps expose trends and patterns not otherwise available. "We want to take data and provide information from that data," Gregory said.

Government, he said, can use this information to become more efficient and effective in answering questions such as how many people live within a flood-plain boundary, or what vegetation is  likeliest to provide fuel to wild fires. And businesses can use it to answer questions related to locating a new facility, or finding where potential customers reside or work. For example, said Gregory, the California Department of Finance has data on population projections, demographics, ethnicity, income, education, etc., which would be useful for businesses seeking to locate in California. "You will be able to embed that info into your own maps," And the public can put the data to use through technology such as mobile apps.

The geo portal -- which will catalog state, city, county, federal, tribal and nonprofit data and operate based on "federated search" -- will launch this January with the goal of enabling government, business and the public to find information within two to three clicks.

The state will also develop high-value data sets that are used often across government, but presently reside in what Gregory called "disparate formats." The state also is looking at building a GIS cloud for state government to share information as a Web service, and building a communication strategy that exploits the latest technology tools.

Wayne Hanson  |  Staff Writer and Editor of Digital Communities

Wayne E. Hanson has been a writer and editor with e.Republic since 1989, and has worked for several business units including Government Technology magazine, the Center for Digital Government, Governing, and is currently editor and writer for Digital Communities specializing in local government. Hanson was a juror from 1999 to 2004 with the Stockholm Challenge and Global Junior Challenge competitions in information technology and education. He self-published three books of fiction and lives in Sacramento with his wife, Jeannie.