Gary Darling became California's first statewide geographic information officer in July of last year after spending seven years as chief information officer at the California Resources Agency. The new position was created to streamline GIS information across agencies in a state that serves 10 percent of the American population.

How can a state benefit from having its own geographic information officer?

GIS is important during times when there's population growth. We're feeling the pressure of our population on our infrastructure and our environment. [In California we] have to be concerned about whether our lights will stay on. This is serious infrastructure stress. When you have the kind of complexity that California has now, it becomes very important to have good, solid information so you can plan your transportation infrastructure and your energy infrastructure to handle this many people without unduly affecting the environment.

What are your priorities for the near and distant future?

One of the first things government needs is a broad-based structure for GIS. We need to provide accurate and appropriate information to high-level decision makers and we need to establish a stable method for funding -- one that ensures genuine cooperation between different levels of government. It has to be inclusive and it has to handle a very complex situation. There are 10,000 governmental entities in California and we have other sectors that play into GIS as well. So all this needs to be coordinated and orchestrated effectively.

Where do you see GIS heading?

We're going to see greater integration with other kinds of data systems; georeference text (being able to submit queries like, "Show me every environmental impact report that's been written about a given region"); georeference public meeting announcements; [and] better integration with planning documents.

Youre going to see the ability to open a GIS that portends to the way things were the day you made your decision and to later open a document that shows the way things are right now. So live maps within planning documents, general plans and California Environmental Quality Act documents will become online, up-to-date things. Youll also see an improved blend between scientific visualization and GIS. And youll probably see geospacial data mining becoming more prevalent in the next few years, large databases having a spatial component, doing data mining to catch trends that you didnt realize earlier were existent or affecting a system.

Gwen Cruz  |  Editorial Assistant