How Modern Technology Is Changing Public-Sector GIS

The days of waiting weeks or months for new map data are being left behind and GIS data's becoming more accessible.

by / August 18, 2014

The ubiquity of online data means that more and more public-sector workers are expecting to be able to access it on mobile devices. GIS data is no exception, as evidenced by the proliferation of online geoportals and tools with location data. The technology's changing how government employees work in the field.
"I work in the stormwater industry, and we've seen a lot of changes going from working in the office to going in the field," said Elizabeth Young, the stormwater GIS manager of Fort Worth, Texas.

In Young's department, online maps and applications have made reporting easier for government employees in at least one case. Utility employees in Fort Worth’s department used to enter their time, business costs and locations by filling out paper cards, but now the process is done online. "We've taken that all digital; taken it out to the field,” she said. “It's gone from being done by the supervisors to actually being done by our crews in the field, so we've taken that task off our crew leads.”
In addition, the days of waiting weeks or months for new map data are being left behind in many cases and data's becoming more accessible.

“In the last two years, it used to be good enough that you could deliver an updated map at least every quarter,” said J. Garland Pardue, sales director of TomTom. “Now, what we see the user community doing is asking, ‘Can you do that on a monthly, weekly or even on a daily basis?’”
Pardue has seen public-sector GIS users asking vendors for more frequent map updates, sometimes in near real time. And now data’s available on more endpoints than before, according to Ken Burris, CEO of Witt O'Brien's consulting.
"It's evolved to the point where the public sector uses a lot more of the metadata that's available over the Internet,” he said. “Previously you used to have to buy stuff and put it on your server, and it was out of date fairly quickly, but today, in the cloud, there's so much data that's accessible.”
Agencies and their employees are used to consuming more data online, which is creating more demands and rising expectations from GIS data providers.
"The demands of the emergency response personnel, in their user applications, are constantly evolving in a very fast way," Pardue said.

Hilton Collins

Hilton Collins is a former staff writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines.

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