New legislation and more funding that went into effect July 1 will enable Massachusetts to improve its GIS program, the state's geographic information officer said on Tuesday, July 6.

Effective this month, the budget for the Massachusetts Geographic Information System (MassGIS) has increased to $3 million annually from $1 million, and will be moved into the Massachusetts Information Technology Division (ITD), which is overseeing an enterprisewide consolidation of the state's IT assets.

MassGIS Director Christian Jacqz said moving the Office of the Geographic and Environmental Information into the ITD is one of several recommendations for MassGIS from an April 2010 task force report that has garnered backing from the executive branch, according to Jacqz.

The plan calls for a three-year build-out of hosting infrastructure for MassGIS -- the state's geospatial database -- as well as a refresh of aerial photo imagery. The added funding will come from the Executive Office for Administration and Finance and the State 911 Department. As part of the reorganization, Jacqz has taken the title of geographic information officer, effective July 1.

MassGIS serves up online some 6 million custom-built maps a year and hundreds of different information layers to thousands of users inside and outside of state government, Jacqz said. Anybody who wants a map can call the server and request a map with specific data layers and data formats, and it's delivered online.

But many stakeholders have grown frustrated by the system, Jacqz said, because of downloading problems. "Right now the program is basically running in the basement of an office building in a fairly vulnerable situation. There isn't good security and the hardware is fairly decrepit," he said.

The new plan will move the MassGIS program into ITD's main data center, which will provide a more robust platform, Jacqz said. The improvements will include better bandwidth, 24/7 access and data backup -- Massachusetts recently broke ground on a failover data center.

Backed by legislation, MassGIS -- which refers both to the state's GIS office and the data repository itself -- coordinates data sharing across all government levels; assembles, archives and updates GIS data; provides technical assistance; and sets standards for the management and acquisition of geospatial data. The program formerly resided in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

 

Matt Williams  |  Associate Editor