Filtered by author: Emily Ruetz Clear Filter

Hennepin County and Mapping Prejudice win Freedom of Information Award

The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information gives a Freedom of Information Award annually. Their focus is on government transparency and efforts to unearth data that make a positive difference. Innovative use of technology is encouraged and rewarded.

The 2021 award will be given to a partnership between Hennepin County and the Mapping Prejudice project for mapping racial covenants recorded between 1910 and 1955. The county scanned and provided all their deeds. It also provided digital cadastral maps to support mapping. The project used optical character recognition (OCR) and thousands of volunteers to find and transcribe racial covenants, then map with GIS.

The product is an animated map showing the spread of racial covenants. The impact has included increased public awareness of the past prejudice and changes in state and local laws to confront that past. Local and national media have reported this story. Jim Crow of the North, developed by Twin Cities public television, has been picked up PBS and soon will be available nationally.

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NSGIC Releases New Guidance for States to Strengthen NG9-1-1 Efforts

NSGIC has published a new guide on Best Practices for State Geospatial Maturity: Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1). NG9-1-1 has been a priority for NSGIC for years. This best practices document is a collection of insights from states further along in adoption and planning of NG9-1-1 efforts.

Next Generation 9-1-1 is a gamechanger for the 9-1-1 community. It utilizes GIS technology to deliver every 9-1-1 call - mobile, VOIP, and landline alike - to 9-1-1 public safety answering point (PSAP) centers with precise geographic coordinates.

With the implementation of NG9-1-1, it is possible for the 9-1-1 network to process text messages, photos, and videos in addition to voice through a faster and more resilient system. NG9-1-1 will also support PSAPs in cases of call overload and natural disasters, and jurisdictional issues.

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What Makes for Strong Statewise GIS Coordination? High Performing States Weigh In

Strong statewide GIS coordination is good government. It:

  • Reduces duplication of efforts
  • Builds and maintains foundational data layers
  • Ensures access to public data
  • Leverages economies of scale for products, software, and services
  • Augments the knowledge base of professionals in the field
  • Establishes standards and best practices through collaborative processes

In short, it supports efficiency, integration, and smart decision-making.

Last week, NSGIC published Best Practices for State Geospatial Maturity: Coordination.

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NSGIC Announces New Board Members; New York State’s Frank Winters takes over as President

National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) announces the appointment of five new members to its Board of Directors, as well as the full slate of officers and board members for the 2020 - 2021 term.

Frank Winters (NY) makes the move from President-Elect to assume the presidency of NSGIC, taking the reins from Karen Rogers (WY). Frank is the Executive Director of the New York State Geospatial Advisory Committee. Frank has a Master of Science in Geography from the University of Idaho and has been involved with GIS in New York State government for 29 years.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created new grand challenges for our nation and highlighted the need for continued coordination of and investment in our geospatial data, technologies, and workforce,” said new NSGIC President Frank Winters. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to serve our NSGIC family as president. I am confident that the nation’s geospatial community will play an even more impactful role in the challenges that lie ahead.”

Jenna Leveille (AZ) has been elected President-Elect to the 2020-21 Board of Directors. An Oregon State University graduate, and Arizona State Land Department (ASLD) employee of twelve years, Jenna has more than 15 years of GIS experience. She is currently a Senior GIS Analyst and project leader for the Arizona State Land Department. Jenna has served as the Arizona State Representative to NSGIC since 2017.

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2020 Geospatial Excellence Awards Announced

Eight Awards Presented at NSGIC Virtual Annual Conference

National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) President Karen Rogers (WY) led a celebration of the 2020 Geospatial Excellence Awards during an online reception held this evening in conjunction with the organization’s Virtual Annual Conference.

2020 Geospatial Excellence Awards:

  • Catalyst Awards: for extraordinary effort and/or results in getting things done:
    • AZGeo Geospatial Data Hub
    • King County Information Technology – GIS for Equity & Social Justice Team
    • MassGIS NextGen 9-1-1 Team
    • Minnesota’s Mapping Prejudice Project
    • State of California - GIS
    • Vermont’s Statewide Property Parcel Mapping Project
  • Innovator Award: for creatively advancing geospatial technical capabilities or problem solving
    • Elizabeth Curley
  • Champion Award: for leadership and support, often at an executive level
    • Dennis Pedersen

“The awards are testimony to the dedicated professionals doing amazing work in states across the country,” says NSGIC President Karen Rogers. “Every recipient is providing value to their GIS community or tools to inform decision makers, which is what it’s all about. The benefits NSGIC members bring to their constituents and leadership cannot be understated, not to mention pushing the envelope of innovation when it comes to location intelligence and data science. It fills me with pride to know how the technology we care so deeply about makes such a difference.”

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Partner Spotlight: GeoComm

Accurate GIS data is important throughout 9-1-1 emergency response and has a critical role in NG9-1-1 by determining which Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) to route a 9-1-1 call to. This process of geospatial call routing enables better accuracy than traditional 9-1-1 systems and can reduce the number of 9-1-1 calls transferred due to misrouted 9-1-1 calls.

For the last 25 years, GeoComm has been working to help GIS and 9-1-1 teams across the country understand the role GIS plays in 9-1-1 and NG9-1-1, empowering them to achieve public safety grade GIS. Our assess, improve, and maintain proven process tackles the common obstacles agencies face when working to implement an NG9-1-1 system. Because the NG9-1-1 services utilized in this approach are simple and straightforward, they are easily adaptable for jurisdictions of all sizes including local, regional, and statewide.

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Partner Spotlight: Fugro

Shining a Light on Change with Recurring Lidar Programs

Our landscape is in a state of constant change. Cities and towns are expanding at a rapid pace, while natural disasters are rearranging rivers, eroding shorelines, and crumbling infrastructure. To effectively manage change, we need geospatial data that is both fit-for-purpose and recurrent, as well as visualization tools to communicate this information to a wide range of stakeholders.

The Value of Recurrent Lidar Data

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First County - Maricopa, Arizona - Shares Lessons Learned From Geo-Enabling Elections

Maricopa County, Arizona, was focused on data accuracy and data management efficiency when work started to geo-enable their elections. This is understandable; the county, which envelopes one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States, Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, was seeing many of the challenges of rapid growth first-hand, including new residential areas, the annexation of land by cities, and the addition of many new voters.

Those efficiency benefits have been realized, in spades, now, some 15 years later. To give one example: changing the old, tabular records to reflect new district boundaries – as happens during redistricting – could take hundreds of hours. Now, changing one boundary to a different one can be done in minutes. Similarly, a legal description for a new voting district can also be created in minutes.

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New Guidance Issued for States to Strengthen Address Data Programs

Complete & Accurate Data Necessary for Emergency Response, Other Government Services

A report issued today by the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) targets a key dataset for state governments. “Best Practices for State Geospatial Maturity: Addresses” is available now.

“Addresses are created by local address authorities in city, county, and tribal agencies,” explains NSGIC Executive Director Molly Schar. “The data support delivery of services like utilities and emergency response, so getting it right is absolutely critical. NSGIC advocates the process of rolling up local address point records to the state to aggregate and then to the national level to save lives, reduce costs, avoid duplication, increase revenues, improve service, and foster efficient and effective government.”

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Partner Spotlight: Hexagon

The Importance of Geospatial Data Intelligence in Times of a Global Pandemic

As the COVID-19 global pandemic keeps the world on edge and uncertainty has sparked historical volatility in the global markets, there has been ample opportunity to reflect on how location intelligence data can aid reaction, response, and recovery in this unprecedented scenario.

Government customers of Hexagon’s Geospatial division have used its M.App Enterprise platform to develop and implement dynamic monitoring systems to close the gap between location information and critical operations. These maps and dashboards are empowering officials and citizens to make informed decisions about procuring essential items, tracking local infection rates, proposing countermeasures, and communicating the most effective ways to stay safe.

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State Spotlight: Indiana

Megan Compton
Indiana Geographic Information Officer, Indiana Geographic Information Office

Interviewed by Robert C. Hoyler

“One challenge we have created is talking too much about GIS, from a technical aspect versus telling the story to better stimulate participation and success. How do we get there? The GIS topic can be overwhelming, so we need to put discussions in a recognizable format and relatable story to achieve a broader project to open the door. I’d like to challenge myself, or anyone, to a meeting and not say “map” or “GIS” - I think it would be difficult,” says Megan Compton, Indiana state Geographic Information Officer (GIO).

Compton became the GIO of Indiana in 2018 and attended her first NSGIC conference in Kentucky the same year. “The first conference was eye opening – I was still relatively green in my job and almost immediately found the NSGIC membership to be all people I have been looking for, who share the understanding of what I’m involved with. With this group, I can step into a conversation without having to explain the background,” says Compton. Learning about opportunities to support advocacy and lead at the national level has helped her implement growth in her own organization.

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State Spotlight: Alabama

Phillip Henderson
State of Alabama GIO, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) / Director of the Alabama Geographic Information Office (AGIO)

Interviewed by Robert C. Hoyler

For the last 30 years, Alabama State GIO Phillip Henderson has worked in state government with much of that time spent working in the field of GIS. He was appointed as the Geographic Information Officer (GIO) for the State of Alabama by Governor Bentley in September 2014 and the Director of the Alabama Geographic Information Program Office in June 2011. He also serves as the Director for Virtual Alabama at the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA).

“It was truly significant to see the establishment of the state GIS office in 2011 and to see the creation of a GIO position in 2014’” reflected Henderson.

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A Closer Look at Geospatial Maturity Assessment Disconnects

The initial 2019 Geospatial Maturity Report (GMA) report was just that - initial. Like geologic stratigraphy, the more you dig into it, the more complex information you can find and understand about the layers above. I have been digging into the report findings to do just that, and as expected there’s a lot more to the story.

The inspiration for the GMA report card was the national report card produced by the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO). A logical step is to take a look at how these evaluations compare. I was curious as to the consistency of the grades between the two. Through the GMA process, we determined that about half of the framework themes are led by the federal government, while the other half are led by state and local data stewardship efforts. While most of them are in general alignment, of the federal-led themes, two stick out as having a serious disconnect between the grades.

Geodetic Control and Governmental Units both received an A- nationally, while state grades don’t fare nearly as well. While the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) does a great job maintaining and improving a national geodetic control system, not many states are doing much to improve above and beyond the federal data and program. While the theme is poorly understood, it is important for states in the public land survey system (PLSS) to accurately map private property in those states. The grade disparity suggests an overconfidence in the extent and reaches of the federal program and its ability to serve state needs.

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Joint Statement on the Value of GIS in the Pandemic

The spread and effects of COVID-19 can be best understood considering space and time.

As governments are responding to COVID-19, more leaders are recognizing the value of “knowing the where.” The importance of knowing where the outbreak is growing, where high-risk populations are, where the hospital beds and important medical resources are, and where to deploy resources is essential. “Knowing the where” informs better decision-making.

In an effort to better understand the where, governments are recognizing the value of geospatial information and technologies and are engaging geospatial professionals to help them better understand the where to help them in their decision-making and response. Geospatial professionals bring unique analytical and visualization skills to the table that help responders and decision-makers visualize where the pandemic is spreading more quickly and can make the important decisions regarding where response and resource needs need to be focused. The value of telling the story through a map coupled with a geospatial dashboard provides a view of the event not readily seen in a table such as a spreadsheet. Beyond visualizing existing data, we can connect data from a location perspective, which enhances the value of the data sources being integrated. Equally important in this event is data on COVID-19 cases and testing packaged and shared in a way useful to scientists.

GIS (geographic information systems) is experiencing an unprecedented level of use. Historically, GIS was deployed following a disaster to help respond and recover. Today, GIS is used as a disaster is unfolding. The COVID-19 event is an outstanding example of how effective GIS is when robust data is available. Governments are realizing the value of investing in these systems and the people who run them.

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State Spotlight: Mississippi

Jim Steil
Director, MARIS (Mississippi Automated Resource Information System)

Interviewed by Scott Bennett

MARIS Director Jim Steil has been working in GIS for 26 years and in his current position for 16 years. Steil got his start in cartography from the earlier days of Mylar and technical pens and later on took a GIS class to create maps of his thesis area. He hasn’t looked back.

Steil says that over the past 20 years, he has seen the change from a few pockets of GIS activity and no real internet access to an incredible web-centric cluster of activities that he could only have dreamed of in the 90’s. Newer generations, he says, see even greater value in the technology. He also reflected on the change of GIS coordination efforts over the years - from purely technical get-togethers to the integration of policy/decision-makers as the main focus.

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Partner Spotlight: Dewberry

Power of Partnerships: Standardizing and Streamlining Preliminary Damage Assessments

In 2019, there were 100 major presidentially declared disasters in the U.S. providing recovery assistance to 39 affected states and territories. In order to obtain a presidential declaration, a governor or tribal chief must submit a request to their Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regional office for assistance. This request includes preliminary damage assessment (PDA) information to document the extent of the disaster and its impact on individuals and public facilities. PDA information is used to show that the disaster is of such severity and magnitude that supplemental federal assistance is necessary for response and recovery efforts. For severe or catastrophic events, a governor or tribal chief may submit a declaration request prior to performing a PDA.

At Dewberry, we understand that dealing with the aftermath of a disaster is a stressful and trying time. Documenting damages can take time and resources that are better spent focusing on response and recovery efforts. Disasters are increasing in frequency and severity, therefore a streamlined approach to documenting damages makes the process of submitting declaration requests faster—facilitating an expedited recovery process. In partnership with ArdentMC, Dewberry supports FEMA, states, territories, and local agencies to help better quantify and quickly assess damage in an effort to expedite needed aid to impacted communities. We are now helping to facilitate and simplify the PDA process in an effort to decrease assistance timelines. Under this contract work with FEMA, the team is providing subject matter and technical expertise to help standardize collection of incident reported damage assessments in impacted areas using newly designed Esri Survey123 templates. These templates use GIS technology to electronically collect, submit, and validate damage assessment in a standardized and sharable way. The platform being used to manage the data collection is hosted in an Amazon Web Services (AWS) GovCloud region and is accredited by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Utilizing ArdentMC’s AWS competency in public safety and disaster response, coupled with Dewberry’s gold partnership with Esri, the PDA team has created a highly scalable collection platform for FEMA’s damage assessment mission.

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State Spotlight: Arizona

Jenna Leveille
Deputy State Cartographer, Arizona State Land Departments

Interviewed by Scott Bennett

Arizona Deputy State Cartographer Jenna Leveille has been working in GIS for about 20 years with 15 years of that in state government and in her current role for a little over two years. She first learned about GIS as an intern while getting her bachelor’s from Oregon State University. Leveille imagined she would work in wildlife conservation but a chance opportunity brought her to state government. She found a love and passion for GIS that has kept her engaged and committed to serving Arizona.

In the past two years in her role, Leveille has seen a significant increase in collaboration and involvement in the state GIS coordinating council. Partners from all levels of government and the private sector are collaborating to solve common problems. There is a community effort to reduce duplicative efforts, to network to better understand challenges and find solutions, and to volunteer time to benefit each other and the community as a whole.

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Partner Spotlight: Safe Software

Data-Driven Decisions in a Real-Time World

Top Data Integration Trends in 2020

Working with location-based information and analytics in 2020 involves a more complex set of challenges than ever: we have to manage huge data volumes, real-time information streams, and a rising number of systems that produce and consume data. Governments and other organizations need to harmonize information to ensure all datasets are up to date, comply with standards, and deliver high-quality data wherever it’s needed. This is why data integration workflows have become a crucial part of operations for companies around the world.

Here at Safe Software, we designed FME 2020 to help you tackle these challenges and more. Let’s look at the top industry trends in 2020 and how you can take your organization to the next level using data integration workflows.

Connect Real-Time, High Volume Datasets

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State Spotlight: North Carolina

Tim Johnson
Director, NC Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (CGIA), NC Department of Information Technology

Interviewed by Scott Bennett

North Carolina Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (CGIA) Director Tim Johnson has been working in GIS for 39 years and has been at his current agency in North Carolina for more than three decades.

Johnson’s interest in GIS started from a young age; he’d had an affinity for maps since he was a boy. He majored in geography as an undergraduate at Appalachian State University, where he took a couple of programming courses and started looking for ways to combine geography and computing. He found the GIS field through reading at the university library and other places. Johnson then pursued a master’s degree at the State University of New York at Buffalo and was fortunate to have studied with some of the early pioneers in the GIS field.

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“Sometimes life drops lessons in your lap without your lifting a finger. Serendipity, they call it.”
~ Charlton Heston

A phrase I hear frequently is, “All things happen for a reason”. If you’re like me, half the time you hear that you want to throat punch the person who said it to you. A quarter of the time, you couldn’t agree more and knew it would work out that way, and another quarter of the time you probably wonder one way or the other. Regardless, at some point we are all struck with the idea of crazy coincidence and fortunate circumstance; on the other side of the coin we’re dealt with raw deals that make us scratch our heads and wonder, with a lesson learned months (or years) down the road.

In my early days when I was a green newbie with the BLM, an old-timer told me that the federal planning process is circular; she meant that good, productive ideas had their time, fell out of fashion, and then came back in a few years as the latest and greatest idea. Meanwhile, the idea never really made it that far or became ubiquitous or successful. Over the years, I have observed this to be true both in federal and state government. Holding on to this paradigm, we never get anywhere as it’s one step forward, two steps back. Unless we study and consult history, we are bound to repeat mistakes of the past.

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