The final phase of the four-part Digital State Survey assessed how states are progressing in the use of geographic information systems and in education. The survey is conducted by the Center for Digital Government, the knowledge-management and research division of e.Republic, and sponsored by the Progress & Freedom Foundation and Government Technology magazine to support the continued development of electronic government.

This year marks the first analysis of GIS implementations - technology that has become increasingly important throughout government. Some experts estimate that 80 percent to 90 percent of government information has geographical components. Many states have been using GIS for years in areas such as environmental and wildlife management, transportation and construction. After Sept. 11 GIS became widely known as a critical tool in emergency management, ground surveillance and military actions.

"It is very interesting to observe that many states already grasped the importance of GIS, even before the events in September," said Cathilea Robinett, executive director of the Center for Digital Government. "This very flexible technology will undoubtedly become a major tool in the future of governments at all levels. It is gratifying to see that some very innovative implementations are already in use."

GIS/Transportation

The survey assessed which states have the necessary infrastructure to create enterprise-wide access to GIS. Among survey requirements were a GIS coordinating body and a clearinghouse for GIS data. States were also asked about public access to this data, how the departments of transportation integrate technology, and what progress they'd made in implementing the federal Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks program. This program provides standards for connectivity between interstate and intrastate databases, allowing motor carriers to apply for credentials through a nationwide electronic network, along with other services.

Kansas led the country with a perfect score of 100 points. The state started early by creating the Kansas GIS Policy Board in 1989. The board drew upon the expertise of 20 stakeholder groups to create data standards that were later incorporated in the Kansas Information Technology Architecture.

According to Chief Information Technology Architect Don Heiman, the effort to monitor the aquifer that runs beneath almost one-third of the state using GIS became a national model. "We found ourselves in an interesting leadership position in the United States as other states tried to pull together their natural resources capabilities," he said.

One of the state's most successful applications, the Department of Health and Environment's Web site, provides information about potential groundwater contamination from the use of fertilizers in the farming state. "When you think about it, water is just so essential to our rural economy and such a prize possession," Heiman said, adding that online GIS information has been a critical tool for citizens. "It gave them a higher level of assurance that we were properly managing our water supplies." The site also offers educational programs, technical assistance, a searchable database to create custom maps of water resources and narratives describing potential contamination sources.

Arizona was one of three states to earn a second place ranking for its advanced use of GIS. The Arizona Geographic Information Council includes representatives from federal, state and local government agencies, education and the private sector.

The public can access a wide variety of GIS data through the State Land Department Web site or by requesting a CD that contains the same information. The state's system is based on cross-agency data sharing, vastly expanding the information and services available. The Department of Transportation has been particularly effective in its use of GIS, creating a Web site that offers images of freeways, road conditions, closures and restrictions, live video and traveler information.

Tied for second place, Illinois lays claim to one of the nation's oldest geospacial data clearinghouses. The state has also been recognized for having one of the nation's largest repositories of digital orthophoto quadrangles - photos that combine the image

Darby Patterson  |  Editor