To coordinate California's digital mapping efforts, state CIO Teri Takai today announced the appointment of Michael Byrne, 39, as the state's first geospatial information officer (GIO). The new position is expected to result in the elimination of duplicative efforts and save costs as the state increases the use of geospatial data.

"Establishing this position is a critical step in implementing a statewide strategy to more efficiently use geospatial data throughout state and local governments," said Takai. "There is a tremendous value in coordinating our resources so that we can share data and work toward more common systems to improve health, public safety, emergency preparedness, environmental protection and other services for the people of California. I am pleased to have Michael serve on our team in the Office of the Chief Information Officer."

Similar to commercially available applications such as Google Maps or Microsoft Virtual Earth, geographic information systems (GIS) allow users to access mapping resources, layered with data, to navigate in an environment where they can visualize scenarios in innovative ways. The technology provides an interface that has the potential to greatly advance government services, security and emergency response.

The GIO will be responsible for ensuring that the state receives the benefits associated with geospatial data, specifically, increased data access and sharing; reduced duplication and costs; development of technology standards; centers of expertise; public outreach and increased collaboration in state and local governments.

Byrne is an expert in design, development, implementation and use of GIS for research and policy. He is currently serving as the chair of the California GIS Council, is a member of the National Geospatial Advisory Committee and serves on the Board of Directors for both GreenInfo Networks and the National States GIS Council. Byrne holds a Masters in Geography from the University of California at Davis and is a certified GIS professional. He previously served as eServices program manager for the California Department of Public Health and as the enterprise GIS architect for the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.

The establishment of the GIO was a chief recommendation of the GIS Task Force called for last year by Governor Schwarzenegger to develop a statewide strategy to enhance the technology for environmental protection, natural resource management, traffic flow, emergency preparedness and response, land use planning and health and human services. The Task Force subsequently issued a report to the Governor last fall.

Examples of GIS applications can be found by visiting the OCIO Web site.