- About NSGIC
NSGIC - National States Geographic Information Council
National Geospatial Data Policy
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are widely used to link data from many different sources in order to produce information that greatly aids decision makers. To be effective, GIS operations must access and utilize good geospatial data. Experience has shown that good data and processes lead to cost savings, more efficient operations, and more effective decision-making. To that end, this NSGIC advocacy paper focuses on developing the high quality geospatial data required to produce current and dependable information, build accurate map services, and to fully enable leadership to make more informed and transparent decisions. Furthermore, when data is put in the public domain, it leads to a better informed public and many new business opportunities for the private sector.
NSGIC Wants National Data Programs
Spatial data is critical to a wide range of public and private activities. These include activities like 911 response, floodplain management, broadband access, marketing and school bus routing. We all need the data, but we lack national data strategies to consistently deliver data sets that meet the business needs of all levels of government. Sometimes the data simply doesn’t exist or it only exists for some places, but not nationwide. In other cases the data doesn’t meet the needs of multiple agencies because it wasn’t produced using appropriate standards or scales for potential user organizations. Alternatively, there are redundant versions of the same data theme, all supported by taxpayers, that have been created to meet the specific, narrow, and uncoordinated needs of individual agencies.
NSGIC believes we should develop and maintain focused national data programs that meet the needs of all levels of government as well as the private sector. This generally means large scale data that meets the needs of local emergency responders on the ground, as well as federal analysts looking at nation-wide trends. We believe that data should be collected once and used many times using a systematic approach that we refer to as For the Nation.
Public dollars are in short supply. Federal, state, and local budgets remain stressed by a weak economy. National geospatial data will require funding, but much of that money can be attained by eliminating redundant programs and by leveraging efforts across various levels of government. A large part of the money needed is already being spent, but in a disorganized manner. Additional funding could come from cost savings gained by programs making efficient use of this data.
Revise and Refocus Federal Data Programs
Depending on the particular data theme, there are two ways that federal data programs can be revised and refocused to meet the needs of all levels of government, coordinate the roll-up of high resolution local
data to the national level, or allow local buy-up enhancements to federal data collection efforts. Examples of each are given below.
Roll-up Local Data
In many cases local data is the best data. Data produced by local governments for their own needs can generally meet the needs of state and federal agencies. To make that happen, local data must be integrated across regions and 50 states. By developing a systematic national programmatic and technical approach, we could make this happen, thus engaging cities, counties, and others in a coordinated effort that would pay benefits to and for all.
Good Address Points will save lives by directing local emergency responders to incidents on construction sites, helping mutual aid responders to navigate unfamiliar territory when they have been called to provide backup services, and aiding state and federal crews when responding to floods and other disasters where normal signage has been obliterated.
Rolling-up all local Address Points would realize the objective of Addresses for the Nation. This is something that has value for local governments by providing information from adjacent jurisdictions. It has value to state governments that need to properly collect and distribute local tax revenues. It has value to the US Postal Service and other delivery services. It has value to federal government agencies like the US Census Bureau to count populations, and the Federal Communication Commission to provide equitable broadband access for citizens and businesses across the nation. It has value to the private sector that delivers products and services to customers, provides risk-appropriate insurance coverage, and makes available reliable online mapping services. Right now those individual agencies and sectors are each developing and maintaining their own address files with costs borne by our citizens – both as taxpayers and as customers.
There is no cheaper or better way to create Addresses for the Nation than by rolling-up local address point records across the nation. NSGIC supports the call made by the National Geospatial Advisory Committee for a National Address Database. NSGIC is committed to working with the US Census Bureau and others to fulfill that vision.
Local Buy-ups within Federal Programs
The federal government often has the business need and the necessary resources to collect its own data. This is well and good. The first problem comes when each agency has slightly different data needs and agencies are not required to work together to implement a single collection effort. The second problem is leaving out the needs of state and local government. A standard national scale for producing topographic maps is 1:24,000. State and local governments often need maps that are 10-times higher (and more) in resolution (1:2,400 scale). Working together, with state and local contributions, data can be collected that meets the needs of all levels of government for costs that are far below what each jurisdiction or agency would have to pay separately. Examples of existing and proposed federal programs are:
Federal and State Governments Need to Work Together
Our nation will only experience excellence in government when all levels of government work together effectively. The needs of our citizens can only be met through coordinated activities and common goals. The cost of government can only be reduced when joint programs are developed that meet the business needs of all levels of government. To this end, NSGIC makes the following recommendations to the Federal government:
1) Federal agencies should develop the standards and tools that support the integration of local data to state and national levels.
2) Federal data collection activities should include cooperative options for state and local buy-ups.
3) Federal agencies should notify states of upcoming data collection activities in their area as soon as possible. States can then respond appropriately, possibly by curtailing redundant efforts or providing additional funds to enhance the federal effort.
4) Federal agencies should notify states of pending grant and contract programs. The states can then notify local governments and help develop better proposals to meet national needs.
5) Federal agencies and state governments should work together to develop a common understanding of program requirements and the data required to meet those needs. NSGIC participates in NOAA’s Digital Coast program and believes it is a successful example of such a coordinated approach.
6) Federal programs should be coordinated across federal agencies. This will make it easier for the states to work with the federal government. Some of this is happening already: e.g. coordinated air photo and elevation programs. The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) should encourage more efforts like these.
7) When appropriate, states should be contracted to develop national data programs. States did this for NTIA’s recent Broadband mapping effort and produced better data that is useful to more people. This will provide the federal government with on-the-ground expert advice and lead to better data for all.