Shelby Johnson, Arkansas GIO & NSGIC President
Before I get too far I’d like to thank Karen Rogers from Wyoming, and Nathan Lowry from Colorado. They did most of the writing for this update and I’m just the publisher.
Can you believe it has already been a month since the 2015 Mid-Year NSGIC conference? The dust has settled now and for those who couldn’t make it, we offer this short summary to get you up to date. These are just a few highlights from the event and filtered through our perspective. From federal address efforts to local outreach initiatives, many GIS projects were reported on as ideas and inspiration flourished.
NSGIC as an organization started the week off with an intense strategic planning session. The Board of Directors discussed strategies to expand its membership and increase participation from the local level. We hope to develop a marketing strategy to recruit new members with fresh ideas and strengthen our organization.
The keynote speaker, Waldo Jaquith, from U.S. Open Data, kicked things off with an intriguing presentation explaining his experience opening up state data to be visualized in GIS. As the director of the U.S. Open Data, his mission is to build the capacity of governments to open up their data, and enabling that data to be plotted on a map makes it that much more meaningful and valuable. He described how he scrubbed data on licensed businesses in the state of Virginia and with a few lines of coding was able to put geospatially enabled data in the hands of locals to help identify businesses that haven’t paid their business license fees. This simple use case should find traction in every one of our states. Waldo went on to point out.
- Presume (assume) that all governments provide data to the public for free. When you hear of jurisdictions that charge for access to data they provide, “change your posture to aghast“. “Really, …. you do that? How is that working out for you?”, etc.
- Make your data known and usable beyond GIS folks:
- Publish machine-readable data
- Host data on a repo and syndicate that data
- Make sure all data is easily discovered via Google
- And specifically for state address point data aggregators:
- Publish in GeoJSON
- Provide a .csv-based bulk geocoder
- Provide a geocoding API that is RESTful, uses JSON, and doesn’t require authentication
Finally, he challenged NSGIC specifically to make a national address database and not wait for the someone else to do it.
The report card the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO) recently released on NSDI data took center stage as former Governor Jim Geringer (WY) and John Moeller described the process and outcome of their efforts. Overall, the nation has earned a C- on its efforts to maintain the framework data layers as identified in 1994. Gov. Geringer was very clear that the blame is not to be placed on any one federal agency or program, but that it should be a wake up call that things should be done differently. Specifically, there needs to be some oversight and accountability for federal agencies and how they acquire, maintain, and share geospatial data.
Riding the coattails of that discussion came information on the recently introduced Geospatial Data Act (GDA). Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is the primary sponsor of this bill, and his staffer Ed Cox presented information regarding what the legislation is intended to do. The GDA would codify the OMB A-16 circular that identified the NSDI framework data layers in the first place, and it would provide Congressional oversight to federal agency activities that generate or maintain those data. It would restructure the governance related to geospatial data management, among many other things. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) is the co-sponsor of the bill. In our opinion this legislation is the most significant policy event since President Clinton’s Executive Order 12906 in 1994. Twenty years later, that order is partly realized but we have so much more to achieve. NSGIC is firmly supporting this Act.
Tony LaVoi of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) presented an update on their geospatial activities. Mr. LaVoi’s presentation remarked that “Geospatial technologies provide the framework to collect, store, analyze, and disseminate ‘NOAA’s Environmental Intelligence” and expanded on the catalog of authoritative geodata generated by NOAA programs. Supporting the COGO Report Card on NSDI, Tony addressed the NSDI Data Themes that received grades and that are supported by NOAA operations. The presentation noted efforts for enhancing discovery, access, collaboration and value of data and services with a goal of “enterprise-scale IT services infrastructure to meet operational GIS requirements”. They plan to support both OGC and ArcGIS rest services. “Of the 20 terabytes of data NOAA gathers each day –twice the data of the entire printed collection of the United States Library of Congress –only a small percentage is easily accessible to the public.” Next steps include increasing access through “The NOAA Big Data Partnership”. New datums both vertical and horizontal are scheduled to be released in 2022.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) provided an update on their latest efforts. In April they will host the National Address Database Summit. This effort is geared toward bringing together numerous entities interested in generating a national address database (NAD) that is based off local data aggregated at the state level. They will discuss the opportunities and challenges of different approaches as they attempt to determine the best course of action to make it work.
Touching on the education community were two videos. One (http://www.arborschool.org/news/blog/2014/12/4/place-a-conversation-about-geography) highlights the Arbor School in Oregon where geography is used as the foundation upon which STEM concepts are taught. The other (http://youtu.be/36Qh4MGEH0E) describes WyoBio, a web application that enables users to geotag their photos of notable flora and fauna in Wyoming. Both embody the value of incorporating geography into our public schools.
On the private side, exciting new developments related to imagery took center stage. Digital Globe announced the new availability of 30cm satellite imagery. Google also described their new offering of imagery as a service and their new licensing configuration for it. 1Spatial, a new NSGIC sponsor, described their specialty of conflating data from a variety of sources to streamline and automate processes related to transportation and address data.
Regardless of which state you’re in and what entity you represent, NSGIC always delivers valuable content and networking opportunities. Make your travel plans for the upcoming Annual Conference in Kansas City this October 4-8 and get your fill.