Earlier this month, the California Technology Agency’s Office of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) launched the state’s "Who is My State Legislator" Web app, a simple tool that lets taxpayers find out who their local political representatives are. The GIS office partnered with the Legislative Data Center to develop the app, which is a small piece of California’s larger GIS strategy.

The app presents a Web page with three input fields and a dynamic map. Users enter their address, city and ZIP code in the fields, click the “Locate” button on the screen, and the map zeros in on their location. The app then generates the corresponding representatives in the state Assembly and the state Senate.

According to Scott Gregory, the state’s geographic information officer, his staff took a responsive design approach to the app, so desktop and mobile users should be able to use it, regardless of platform.

“Everything that we’re building is really going to have a slant toward the Web because we know that with the proliferation of smartphones, mobile devices [and] tablets — that’s the next computing paradigm,” Gregory said.

Who is My State Legislator?

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The "Who is My State Legislator" Web app, embedded above, lets taxpayers find out who their local political representatives are.

An internal enterprise geocoding service powers the map’s location-based search function. The service, in place since August 2012, supports similar mapping functions for 10 government organizations.

Gregory sees the technology as an engine that will power service-oriented GIS tools for California government as part of a broader mission. In a recorded video address from November 2012, he mentioned a goal to map California and help the public sector provide more geographic data to citizens.

“GIS is one of the most transformative technologies that government can use, and one of my big pushes is just to get folks to start to use geography and taking a geographic advantage to approaching their data,” he said to Government Technology.

The geocoding service technology behind the legislator app also supports the Board of Equalization’s interactive map of California’s delinquent taxpayers. According to Gregory, the geocoding service was developed using Esri’s ArcGIS server software, and California programmers used JavaScript to build the user interface.

According to a California IT policy document from December 2010, the state’s enterprise-sized databases with location-based information must have geocodes associated with the data. Gregory’s office built the geocoding service tool to help California agencies meet that requirement.

Gregory will gauge the new app's usefulness by monitoring the number of hits it receives and the accuracy of the data it returns to users. The app is only a sampling of more location-based apps to come. Gregory didn’t name any specific creations that are on the way, but his office will partner with other state departments to build them. According to him, they’ve been pleased with what’s been developed so far.

“It’s all about relationships, and we get in and show them the value, and they’re usually pretty thrilled with the results,” he said.

Hilton Collins, Staff Writer Hilton Collins  |  GT Staff Writer

By day, Hilton Collins is a staff writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines who covers sustainability, cybersecurity and disaster management issues. By night, he’s a sci-fi/fantasy fanatic, and if he had to choose between comic books, movies, TV shows and novels, he’d have a brain aneurysm. He can be reached at hcollins@govtech.com and on @hiltoncollins on Twitter.