very different - an evolutionary development, where you take a small part of a city or a county, develop a robust GIS application, start showing some of the benefits, and then continue to develop it geographically instead of trying to do it all at once. You see immediate results. If you do a GIS for a neighborhood on a demo basis, you can have results the next week. So you develop it in an evolutionary and a practical method rather than the "whole hog" method, which takes too long. Those problems - have been the two major disappointments that have stopped GIS from being the growth industry it can be in local governments.

Johnson: The way we built our system was build it right, build it from the ground up, countywide, and put substantial amounts of money in it for a number of years. Several colleagues each year would try to find that extra $300,000 to $400,000 that I had tucked away in the budget, and pull it out for human services, rather than [spend it] on those techie nerds and their maps. It wasn't until we had one of our first demos that the commissioners - saw these were very nifty applications. And even though they had been working hard to find where I'd squirreled the money away, next election cycle, they were taking credit for their advanced work in software development.

James Ley: I've been involved in GIS since 1981, but it took seven or eight years before we realized that it was an organizational problem, a management problem, not a technology problem. And we fairly successfully moved it along, by creating a management model. But still, it didn't work well enough, because it hadn't been integrated into an overall enterprise-wide strategic plan for technology. When I left Clark County [Nevada] and [moved] to Sarasota County we began to identify our key organizational initiatives. We created communities of interest in the users, and they drove the project, not the technologists. The technologists became the ambassadors for the project, the advocate for resources, the project manager for helping set priorities, more a facilitator overall, of the users. Once that happened, it fired up and began to take hold. But that was a 20-year lesson.

Johnson: I was only half joking when I said that redistricting after the census would do more than anything to [get support for GIS from elected officials]. The fact that somebody else on your board might have that capability - "Why are they drawing the map that way around my house, and I can't do that?" - I think that's going to drive a lot of interest in GIS.

Karen Anderson: GIS points out the disparity between large and small cities. Small cities, in most cases, don't have the capability to get a system like that. There's a need for partnerships among entities and adjoining cities' countywide areas. In Minnesota we have a good example in our northern metropolitan area. Seven cities along [Interstate 35 West] started working together on transportation issues and saw they needed to do a better job of cooperating rather than competing to bring in new commercial development and industry. They put together a joint GIS. Those seven cities range in size from 2,000 in Circle Pines to nearly 50,000 in Blaine. And they are sharing the GIS data; they're making good decisions based on it. And there's no way Circle Pines would have ever had their own GIS, they just couldn't do that with a city of 2,000. We need to point out examples like this and encourage more cities to do that.

Gordon Anderson: A lot of people don't understand how sophisticated [GIS] is. We were talking about privacy issues. Santa Monica has been involved with GIS for years, and we just started adding aerial photos

Wayne Hanson  |  Senior Executive Editor, Center For Digital Government