pulls data from ArcSDE to generate a Web page. The infrastructure also includes several Linux Web servers and a storage area network (SAN).

As of April, the Hub held between 300 GB and 400 GB of data, but Nutsch said that will climb dramatically. The project to merge 6,000 aerial photos, for example, will produce a data layer of about 240 GB. The system's capacity is unlimited as long as the state keeps adding more storage devices, he said.

Versatility

There are three ways to obtain data from the Hub.

Employees working behind the state's security firewall can access the warehouse through a direct link, using ESRI's ArcGIS software to display and manipulate data. Users outside the firewall can obtain streaming data over the Internet and view it with ESRI's ArcExplorer or ArcGIS. These tools allow people to modify the way they view the data ? changing the color or thickness of the lines representing highways, for example. They can also download the streaming data onto their local hard drives.

In addition, some state data is available through Hub Explorer, an Internet browser tool. Users visiting the state's GIS Web site can view maps showing communications towers, transportation networks, political boundaries or environmental features. Each map displays several layers of geographic information ? such as cities, counties, state and federal roads, and geological features on the surface geology map ? and provides details on individual features.

To develop the Hub, members of the GIS Technical Committee had to agree on standards for geographic projections and naming conventions. They also developed standards for metadata, which provides details on when, how and by whom a file was created. One technical project they did not have to tackle was converting large numbers of files into a common data format, Nutsch said. Most agencies, it turned out, had been using compatible GIS software to create their files.

One important challenge the agencies faced was cultural. When they started discussing a GIS Hub seven or eight years ago, state agencies initially seemed reluctant to share proprietary information, Bassler said. "What made this committee gel were committee members reminding not only each other, but also directors and employees from their respective agencies, that this was a team effort."

Incentive to Cooperate

Government agencies are most willing to cooperate when they see clear benefits for all involved, Nutsch said. In the case of the GIS Hub, they had a strong incentive. "When I came to work here in August 2001," he said, "I think people were at the point where they were so fed up having to spend all this extra time and effort just to get the data, they were really wanting to work with each other."

Three North Dakota agencies ? the Department of Transportation, the State Department of Health and the State Water Commission ? piloted the Hub in the first half of 2002. The system went live for general use in October 2002.

The Historic Preservation Division of the State Historical Society of North Dakota is using the Hub to develop a digital file of nearly 50,000 archaeological, historical and architectural resources in the state. Accredited contractors and planners use this data to conduct cultural resource surveys, and to assess the impact that proposed development?to widen a road, for instance, or erect a communications tower ? will have on recorded cultural resources in the area.

"The Hub provides us with easy one-stop shopping," said Timothy Reed, a research archaeologist with the Historic Preservation Division. "Digital raster graphic topographic maps ? 1:24,000 ? for the entire state are there, all seamed together. Geopolitical boundaries, sections, townships and county boundaries, and road coverages, and even aerial photos for about half the state are all in one spot." Without the Hub, he said, "I would have to pull all these coverages from the separate

Merrill Douglas  |  Contributing Writer