The Word On

State-Level GIOs

by / August 1, 2001
As state populations continue to grow, dependence on spatial information increases. Managing this data and coordinating GIS projects creates a burden for many chief information officers. Despite having GIS departments and directors, several states are considering following Californias lead and appointing geographic information officers to oversee this massive influx of geographic analyses. This month, we spoke with four leaders in the areas of government and GIS to get their opinions on appointing a state-level GIO.

Aldona Valicenti
Aldona Valicenti is president of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and CIO of Kentucky.

"First of all, a GIO is not a CIO. Theyre two totally different things. I would challenge you that California actually did it first. We just didnt call Susan [Lambert, the states GIS executive director] a GIO. But Susan was probably one of the first geographic information officers to report to a CIO."

"What Susan [is doing] is setting up standards and policies so that graphic information, which will be collected, stored and distributed, all works together. The only way that works together is if there are standards in place."

"Because the data is gathered at multiple layers for geographic information and what happens is at a state level, you try to do the infrastructure pieces that each location cannot do themselves."

Jan Gould
Jan Gould is past president of the Nevada State Geographic Information Society.

"I see the role of a [state level] geographic information officer as someone who coordinates the data. When we have situations such as disasters, that coordinator should know where to get the information needed to better help us through that disaster. In regards to earthquakes, flooding, [or] any disaster, that data, if well organized, can benefit us immensely."

"It can also help us in our growth, protecting our environment and continuing to grow in a healthy manner. The population is growing. We need more of everything. In a desert environment, it looks barren, but the fact is its very sensitive. [If] you destroy a bunch of land in the desert, it takes years for it to recover. Its not like in the forest where you clear-cut a patch, and within five or six years, youve got things growing - Our problems we need to look at as far as growth are water, air pollution and the natural environment. Those plants, once you cut them down, dont grow overnight."

Keith C. Clarke
Keith C. Clarke is president of the Cartography and Geographic Information Society and is a research cartographer and professor for the University of California at Santa Barbara.

"Its certainly important for the larger states to have [a GIO] immediately. Eventually, I would imagine all states would need a GIO. Its been estimated that 80 percent of all data is spatial and as we move toward GIS- and geo-enabled information, the role of the spatial information expert is going to be increasingly important."

"The central role would be played out at the state and local level coordinating GIS activities. We find that at the county level typically different, often overlapping, sometimes-redundant GIS operations have been functioning or have been started without reference to each other. Because they often have different missions, there is a need for somebody with oversight at a higher level who can require agencies to work together to share data and, most importantly, insist on a common framework."

Rob Aktinson
Rob Aktinson is vice president of the Progressive Policy Institute and director of PPIs Technology and the New Economy Project.

"I think its a good idea. I would do it in the context of a CIO position. Id do it as somebody who works for the CIO as opposed to a separate entity, division or person."

"You want to drive all IT decisions through the CIO. One of the reasons to have a CIO is to make sure youre building a customer-centric government, a functional government, as opposed to a stovepipe government, so you want to make sure all the IT applications fit together. The GIS applications would be part of that as well."
Gwen Cruz Editorial Assistant