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California's New GeoPortal Touts 'Socially-Derived Maps'

This summer, the California Technology Agency will unveil the "myMap” tab, which lets citizens build personalized GIS maps through a mashup of data.

California's new statewide geoportal links nearly 9,000 layers of data. Photo courtesy of Bill Foster.
The California Technology Agency's (CTA) new GeoPortal, announced on Thursday, March 28, during the Mobile Government Forum held in Sacramento, Calif., is a “first-in-the-nation” tool for public access to authoritative geodata, according to CTA Secretary Carlos Ramos.

The portal is intended to increase transparency, and to serve as California's one-stop shop for city, county, state, federal, tribal and education geospatial data. However, GIS data from neighboring states Oregon and Nevada is available on the portal, and data from Arizona is expected to roll out on the platform in the near future, according to Scott Gregory, California’s geographic information officer, pictured below.

William Foster
Paul Benedetto, the CTA’s undersecretary of operations, said all of the geospatial data in the state is going to reside in this portal, "which will allow us to build applications -- mobile applications -- that will provide our citizens for the state of California with the best information at the best time possible."

And this summer, one key feature is expected to be integrated into the portal: The “myMap” tab feature will allow citizens to build personalized GIS maps through a mashup of data by selecting their choice of information from government organizations. The overall goal will be to allow citizens to print, email and share their personalized maps on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Gregory said the concept of “socially-derived maps” or “socially-derived data” is to allow citizens to build maps based on data that matters to them, like a roaming wildfire to share details about a fire in progress with other citizens. 

Other reasons for building a personalized GIS map could be for businesses to understand the market potential of a new company location. According to the portal, a business may want data on things like road infrastructure to incorporate into the decision-making process about a new business’ location.

William Foster
“The idea is to get this resource into the hands of people who can actually use it,” Gregory said.

To build their own maps, citizens will create “geoIDs” to log in and out of their portal account. Users can decide whether to make their personalized maps public, and those that do will be displayed in the California map gallery page for anyone to view.

For government employees who serve as “data stewards” – those responsible for providing access to the spatial data on the portal from a specific government agency or organization -- the CTA is encouraging individuals to create administration geoIDs accounts, Gregory said.

Once the CTA has approved those users to hold administrative accounts, they can administer content and have access to other portal resources that are not accessible to the general public.

Gregory said none of the data accessible through the website is housed on the portal; the portal only links together data from the various organizations that provide the data. The portal itself was developed in nine months from start to finish, and was an in-house project.

“The geoportal will never be complete,” Gregory said. “It will never be done.”

Photos by Bill Foster

Sarah Rich is a former staff writer for Government Technology.