GIS Market Expansion Expected to Continue

State and local government, which has rapidly bought into GIS, is expected to continue installing and upgrading systems through the rest of the decade.

by / June 30, 1995
July 1995

Level of Govt: State, local and federal.

Function: GIS.

Problem/situation: Will state and local governments continue purchasing GIS systems?

Solution: Expanded use of GIS by state and local governments is projected.

Jurisdiction: Texas, Harris County, Texas, Fairfield, Hartford and Norwalk, Conn., Ontario, Calif., North Carolina, Phoenix, Ariz., Cincinnati and Hamilton counties, Ohio, Florida, Maryland, Washington, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey.

Vendors: None mentioned.

Contact: Rishi Sood, G2 Research 415/964.2400

Rishi Sood

Analyst, G2 Research

Over the past five years, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has become a fundamental technology utilized by state and local government agencies. GIS has become an invaluable tool vital to the daily operations and functions of these agencies, such as analyzing and managing spatial data as well as efficiently delivering goods and services to the public.

As a result, GIS implementation has spread quickly across government agencies. In fact, state and local government spending on GIS, from software to hardware to services, will reach $400 million in 1995. The accompanying chart illustrates projected state and local government GIS expenditures from 1995-2000. Over the next five years, state and local government spending on GIS is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 16 percent, nearing $840 million in 2000.

Moreover, the dynamics of the GIS market are rapidly changing. Given the improving price and performance ratio for GIS-related hardware and the widespread availability of inexpensive GIS packaged software, state and local government agencies utilize the power of GIS to fulfill new objectives. Some of the emerging trends of GIS within state and local governments include:

+ Increasing Public Access. Citizens are increasingly demanding more information and services; and as a result, agencies are beginning to offer electronic access to public data, with GIS as the primary enabler. Private citizens and commercial firms may utilize the GIS database to locate growing business districts, map community service organizations, model future rainfall, target population groups, etc. Increasing public access to GIS databases in venues such as local libraries improves value to the customer without dramatically increasing workload or cost. Similarly, state agencies can charge private-sector firms for the use of the GIS database.

+ Improving Efficiency of Government Service Delivery. The ability to map multiple inputs such as socioeconomic data, economic indicators and business locations against government services enables state and local government agencies to more accurately target and serve distinct population categories. For instance, human services departments can identify areas with a high incidence of unemployment and proactively service that community with appropriate caseworkers, job training events, or educational programs. By utilizing GIS to first define the requirements, state and local government agencies can improve the success of government services.

+ Reducing the Cost of Government Operations. Faced with relatively stable revenues, state and local governments require cost-effective tools to manage their business. The vast amount of information contained in and the enormous functionality of GIS empowers multiple agencies. Moreover, the collective data provided by user agencies improves data sharing and interagency communication. This benefit of GIS utilization spurred the implementation and cost sharing of GIS across other, non-traditional GIS markets.

Widespread Use of GIS Among State and Local Government Agencies

Historically a back-office operation within environmental management departments, GIS has been primarily utilized for water, land and air quality management purposes. But over the past few years, GIS has quickly gained substantial footing within departments of transportation, public works and public safety. GIS is now an integral component of transportation planning and infrastructure development activities. Similarly, the link between GIS and traditional Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) systems accelerated the use of GIS within law enforcement and emergency response agencies. GIS has become a core technology within these departments.

Moreover, GIS is an economical method of tracking and analyzing key agency data within departments of revenue and taxation, assessor's offices, departments of economic development, and health agencies. Departments of human services will also become an emerging GIS market segment over the next few years. The attached chart illustrates estimated GIS spending across these vertical market segments in 1995.

The application of GIS is as varied as the type of agencies utilizing this powerful technology. Beyond the traditional use of GIS to manage air, land or water pollution data, other state and local government agencies have customized their GIS systems to meet their unique needs. Departments of revenue and assessor's offices commonly link tax information against business license renewal data and zoning ordinances as well as complete parcel mapping and track appraisals.

Increasingly, environmental health divisions, such as the North Carolina Department of Health, chart the outbreak of illnesses against geographic data. Human services agencies utilize GIS to identify densely populated welfare regions and improve service delivery to these areas.

New GIS project implementation will be driven by increasing local government spending over the next five years. Already, GIS consortiums in Ontario, Calif., Cincinnati and Hamilton counties in Ohio, and Phoenix, Ariz. are becoming more common. Furthermore, the advantageous price and performance ratios of GIS have allowed independent local agencies, such as the Harris County Assessor's Office, to implement GIS projects. The dispersion of GIS across non-traditional and local GIS markets will drive GIS spending among state and local government agencies.

Improvements in Data Collection:

Remote Sensing and GPS

Along with the decreasing price of GIS software, the availability of GIS data to refresh maps and build additional data layers has improved over the past five years. In particular, remote sensing is a cost-efficient way for state and local government agencies to build and maintain accurate GIS databases.

Integration of remote sensing data and GPS technology with GIS improves the overall quality of the spatial data upon which maps and applications are built. Sophisticated remote sensing images provide highly detailed information and improve the tedious data collection process. The accuracy and breadth of information provided by remote sensing greatly increase the value and functionality of GIS applications. Remote sensing has also dramatically decreased the cost of data collection, which traditionally has been a major obstacle to GIS system development.

Remote sensing providers encourage interagency and multijurisdictional utilization of this data by offering agencies multiple license discounts. For example, remote sensing providers have statewide purchasing plans in which multiple agencies can pool resources to acquire statewide remote sensing data.

Florida, Maryland and Washington utilize such agreements to update their GIS databases. Even county and municipal governments, such as Fairfield, Hartford and Norwalk, Conn. have joined together to acquire remote sensing data.

Global Positioning Systems (GPS) also facilitate the front-end data collection efforts necessary for GIS applications. Positional information transmitted from GPS satellites can be uploaded to an agency's computer system and subsequently processed for conversion to GIS map layers. Moreover, conversion software also enables GPS data to be integrated with remote sensing images. State departments of transportation and public safety agencies both benefit from GPS/GIS applications.

Federal Influences:

The National Spatial Data Infrastructure

Originally, the GIS market was driven by federal spending and major systems procurements. Although the federal government is still actively acquiring GIS, the influence of the federal government is dramatic in other areas as well. In particular, the Federal Geographic Data Committee has been instrumental in the organization of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI).

NSDI promises to revolutionize GIS data collection activities as well as spur GIS implementation within nontraditional market segments and jurisdictions. The goal of NSDI is to create a national clearinghouse of geo-spatial data to assist public agencies and private firms in the development of cost-effective GIS databases. Enterprises can go online with this clearinghouse and download the necessary data electronically.

With at least nine pilot projects underway, the effect of the NSDI on state and local government GIS users is enormous. For example, 18 Texas state agencies are involved in the Texas Natural Resources Information System (TNRIS), which provides individual citizens and private firms access to environmental data as well as to the TNRIS GIS database. Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and North Carolina are developing similar projects to increase GIS data transfer and utilization. Eliminating redundant data collection efforts, NSDI will ensure widespread availability and electronic transmission of spatial data.


As state and local government agencies continue to focus on improvements in government service, operating costs, and interagency data sharing, the power and functionality of GIS will be indispensable to fulfilling these objectives. GIS has proven to be a valuable tool in the delivery, examination, and reorganization of public goods and services. In fact, GIS is the cornerstone technology within departments of natural resources and public works. GIS will continue its penetration into departments of revenue, health, and human services. Given the decreasing costs of GIS hardware and software as well as the significant improvements in data collection, the number of state and local government GIS projects will continue to grow over the next five years.