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NSGIC Releases Findings From Biennial Geospatial Maturity Assessment Survey

National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) has released its biennial comprehensive Geospatial Maturity Assessment (GMA) report, which provides NSGIC members and other partners with a summary of geospatial initiatives, capabilities, and issues within and across state governments. For the first time, NSGIC has modified the GMA survey to produce report cards for each state on central data themes and coordination topics.

The 2019 GMA, augmented with individual state report cards and framework data theme analysis, is an authoritative resource on the status of state geospatial programs. This deeper dive can assist states in setting goals, identifying peer states for collaboration, pinpointing areas requiring attention, and connecting states with opportunities and resources. It also provides an important tool for federal partners to identify areas for key coordination, cooperation, and collaboration, and for the private sector to build software and services that comprise the tools that make it all work.

"The state report cards produced by NSGIC through the Geospatial Maturity Assessment marks a watershed moment for really being able to gauge where states are with their GIS programs, both on their own and in relation to neighboring states. The GMA report should prove to be an invaluable resource for Geospatial Data Act implementation. We hope it helps to identify states that need help and provide them with resources to improve,” said Karen Rogers, NSGIC President and Wyoming state representative.

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More States to Integrate Mapping Technology into Elections Systems as NSGIC Project Moves into Second Phase

National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) has been awarded $300,000 by the bipartisan Democracy Fund Voice organization for the second phase of NSGIC’s Geo-Enabled Elections project. This continues a national effort by state government geospatial information officers and coordinators to work with other state agencies, local elections officials and state elections offices, national GIS (geographic information system) and elections organizations, and federal partners to identify opportunities to leverage this powerful technology to strengthen elections management and citizen engagement.

“As an organization made up of GIS leaders in state government, NSGIC is uniquely positioned to leverage the innovative work of states to use GIS for elections data. We have enlisted those innovators to contribute and advise throughout the project. Collaboration has been key to the success of the project. Relationships built in the first phase of the project will be invaluable to the work of the second phase as the project seeks to increase engagement and, ultimately, impact,” said Molly Schar, NSGIC Executive Director.

The Geo-Enabled Elections project was launched in October 2017 and will now continue for an additional two years. The project aims to help strengthen electoral systems by supporting states in the adoption of GIS. Concretely, this means encouraging state governments to replace non-spatial ‘address file’ systems with election precinct and voter data in a GIS format, leveraging that format’s inherent visual and analytical advantages.

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Coming Together for Next Generation 9-1-1: State GIS Coordinators, 9-1-1 Boards, and Public Safety Answering Points

Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) is a ‘game changer’ for the 9-1-1 community because it will utilize GIS technology to deliver every 9-1-1 call —mobile, VOIP, and landline — to public safety answering point (PSAP) centers with precise geographic coordinates.


  • Uses authoritative GIS data for call routing and location validation
  • Conducts real-time two-way voice, text, and video emergency calls via IP-based networks
  • Accesses personal sensor notifications—including collision detection and medical alert systems
  • Better location data result in fewer misrouted calls, and an IP-based network of networks will simplify transferring emergency calls and associated data to other PSAPs
  • Interoperable data standards enable PSAPs to better assist each other in emergencies
  • Improves area-specific multi-media emergency alerts to wireline and wireless devices

PSAPs will be required to use up-to-date and standardized geographic information thatare regularly shared to regional and/or statewide datasets, including:

  • Civic location data including address points and road centerlines that have been synchronized with MSAG and ALI databases.
  • Emergency service boundaries, including law, fire, EMS and PSAP boundaries that are free of gaps and overlaps and have been coordinated with neighboring jurisdictions.
  • Provisioning boundaries, which define who is responsible for providing the above GIS datasets for a specific geographic extent.

While states across the country are in various stages of preparation for implementation of the next generation of 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1), it is clear that strengthening relations with state 9-1-1 leadership and PSAPs is critical to the success of NG9-1-1.

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NSGIC Announces New Board Members; Wyoming’s Karen Rogers takes over as President

National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) is proud to announce the appointment of five new members to its Board of Directors, as well as the full slate of officers and board members for the 2019 - 2020 term. Joining the Board of Directors are Karen Rogers (WY), Frank Winters (NY), Tim Johnson (NC), Jenna Leville (AZ), and Neil MacGaffey (MA).

Karen Rogers makes the move from President-Elect to the new President of NSGIC, taking the reign from Dan Ross (MN). Karen is a Habitat Protection Analyst for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. She got her start in GIS as an archaeologist with the Pinedale BLM 20 years ago. As a certified GIS professional, she currently serves as the President of WyGEO and has been on the Board of Directors of NSGIC for the last 5 years.

"The seismic advances in technology over the next few years are positioning our organization to drive enormous geospatial innovation within the states and at the federal level,” said new NSGIC President Karen Rogers. “I’m honored to take the helm of an organization with the talent, enthusiasm and professionalism of NSGIC. Together with the board, our staff and industry partners, we’ll chart a path for true innovation and technological change that will enable our policymakers to deliver more efficient and effective government within the states and across our country.”

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NSGIC Releases Best Practices for Improving America’s Elections

Two-year project delivers concrete guidance for how states can increase the accuracy and efficiency of elections using geographic information systems (GIS) technology

National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) released Best Practices for Geo-Enabling Elections, aimed at decision-makers in elections management across the nation, Monday. The guidance, developed in collaboration with ten states and subject matter experts from both elections and GIS fields, is the result of a two-year project focused on reducing election errors.

“You could say this project is about getting the right ballot to the right voter,” says Molly Schar, NSGIC’s executive director. “Even in a democracy as old as ours, this doesn’t always happen. Voters are occasionally placed in the wrong voting district by mistake, and then given the wrong ballot. As a result, unfortunately, election results are questioned, sometimes with legal battles and expensive election do-overs as a consequence. Strengthening the accuracy and efficiency of our electoral system, on the other hand, will ultimately increase voters’ confidence that their voices are being heard.”

Geospatial technology is a solution to the problem of voters being accidentally assigned to the wrong voting district. In the same way that many of us use maps on our phones to navigate to unfamiliar locations, election authorities can “pin” voters on electronic maps, and thereby ensure voters are automatically allocated to the right voting districts or precincts and given the right ballot to vote. The technology becomes particularly valuable when voting district boundaries are redrawn, such as after the upcoming 2020 Census. With voters as“pins” on a digital map, digital renditions of the new district boundaries can simply be overlaid over those pins,and voters automatically sorted into the right district.

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Will Your State Host NOAA's Next Digital Coast Fellow?

Over the past year, former Alaska Sea Grant research trainee Richard Buzard has been working with the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys Coastal Hazards Program in Anchorage, Alaska to help rural Alaskan coastal communities understand flood impacts and respond to coastal storms, and develop flood impact guidance for coastal mapping on the last frontier.

Rich was partnered with mentor DGGS Coastal Hazards Program (CHP) lead scientist and program manager, Jacquelyn Overbeck, as part of NOAA's Digital Coast Fellowship program.

The NOAA Coastal Management Fellowship and Digital Coast Fellowship Program matches postgraduate students with key NOAA partners to work on specific projects for two years. The program provides fellows with professional mentoring and training and the hosts with technical assistance to help them manage the coast effectively.

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Partner Spotlight: AppGeo

NSGIC Annual Conference: Five Things on Our Minds

It’s been 55 years since Bob Dylan penned the times they are a-changin’, but that sentiment is truer than ever today in the world of GIS. Although we could make a lengthy list of things a-changin’, we’ve picked these top five, which we feel are particularly relevant to state GIS leaders. We look forward to conversations with you in Snowbird!

  1. Strategic planning 2.0 -- Many states haven’t done a full-on strategic plan since the FGDC Cooperative Agreement Program (CAP) grants from a decade ago. There’s been a whole lot of change since then, with new players, new paradigms for data access, new technology options, new political realities, and more. In our view, we need a change, a v2.0 approach to strategic thinking about the roles and goals of geospatial and its societal impact. A strategic plan sets the course for both vision and activities in a state GIS office, so this piece is very, very important.
  1. Geospatial Data Act -- It’s finally federal law, which means that it’s finally time for the US (and us!) to get serious about building and supporting a shared set of national geospatial capabilities. States will have a key role as the middle layer between national and local level participants in this endeavor. There are also opportunities to connect some national geospatial data silos, such as Next-Generation 9-1-1 and the National Address Database, which we need to move from idea to reality. This ties in nicely with v2.0 strategic planning, which is a formal responsibility of the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) under the new law. Ideally, the FGDC would again step up and provide support for the level of multilateral, nested strategic planning needed to engage the broad and diverse geospatial stakeholder community.
  1. New urgency on environmental problems -- We’re facing ever more urgent problems with more potent hurricanes and storms, greater wildfire threats, increased flooding potential, accelerating human consumption of natural resources, and many other issues. All of these need geospatial analytics to understand, and even predict the risks we now face and to develop solutions. If you are a parent (and even if you are not), these environmental issues should concern you and spur you to engage as truth-tellers with GIS.
  1. The shifting sands of geospatial data sources -- It wasn’t that long ago that government was the primary source of most GIS data, but that is becoming less and less true. We are seeing huge geospatial data investments from global internet companies, the auto industry, new imagery providers, and an explosion of data coming from sensors and “things” everywhere. This shift requires a rethinking and repositioning of the role of state GIS offices as the [providers/aggregators/curators/distributors] of geospatial data. See also, strategic planning, v2.0, above.
  1. Addresses, addresses, addresses -- It has become increasingly clear that address data containing accurate lat/long coordinates attached to every street address record is so fundamental to so many important uses, that we need to redouble our effort to get this done right, and done in a way that leverages the support resources and capabilities of many separate constituencies who will otherwise continue to work on address data separately. Oddly enough, this ties in with v2 strategic planning.

You might have a different list of top five issues, and we’d love to hear them. We look forward to having some great conversations with you at the NSGIC conference. For us, it’s the best event of the year to talk with the top geospatial thinkers and movers. We can share our observations with you that come from the rich variety of projects we’re involved in across the country. And we love to hear your perspective on what you see a-changin’ from the driver's seat as state GIS leaders.

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Thriving Elections, Boundary Management in Focus at Elections GeoSummit

On August 14, 85 leaders in elections management and GIS, representing 15 states, converged at The Eaton, Washington D.C., to share leading-edge findings and craft best practices to enhance the nation’s election system using GIS. With the 2020 Census on the horizon, followed by redistricting, boundary management was a key topic. How do states and other election authorities ensure that each voter votes in the right electoral contests, on an on-going basis, but particularly following redistricting?

A large part of the answer lies in leveraging the key technology that NSGIC’s Geo-Enabled Elections project is focused on; integrating GIS in election systems across the nation to increase election accuracy and efficiency, while avoiding costly mistakes and do-overs.

The Elections GeoSummit represented the culmination of the Geo-Enabled Elections project’s work to date and featured panel discussions with participants in the project’s five pilot studies and five case studies. In addition, the summit included a highly anticipated presentation of the project’s draft best practices to enhance elections with GIS. A publication of the final best practices will follow in September.

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State Spotlight: Washington

Joanne Markert
State GIS Coordinator, WaTech, Office of the Chief Information Officer / Geospatial Program Office

Interviewed by Sheila Steffenson

Washington State GIS Coordinator Joanne Markert has been working in GIS for almost 25 years. Markert got her start in natural resources and planning and fell in love with GIS when she realized it helped figure out where the resources were. She hasn’t looked back since.

Markert has been in her current position with Washington Technology Solutions (WaTech), Office of the Chief Information Officer / Geospatial Program Office for a little over two years now. She says “GIS is always evolving. Even in my very short time with the state, we have streamlined data sharing by consolidating individual agency sites into a single statewide open data site. Our next project will be sharing data among agencies using portal-to-portal technologies. Anything that reduces redundancy is a priority.”

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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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Geo-Enabled Elections News: Case Study #5- Hawaii

Our use of GIS in elections started with redistricting. GIS was used very effectively by our State Reapportionment Commission in 2001 and 2011. They used GIS to balance district populations and to create a series of paper maps showing the new district boundaries. In 2011 they also published online maps so the public could more easily see where the new boundaries were being drawn.

After redistricting, each of our counties needed to create new precincts and correctly assign voters to these new precincts. The voter management system in use at that time used street segments and address ranges to assign voters to precincts. Without GIS, this was an intensive manual process to examine the streets and determine the new address ranges for the new precincts.

The rest of the case study is available now!

State Spotlight: Missouri

Tracy Schloss
GIS | Office of Geospatial Information, MO Office of Administration

Tony Spicci
Resource Science GIS Supervisor, MO Department of Conservation (MDC)

Interviewed by Tim Bohn and Tim Donze

A move by Missouri a few years ago to consolidate GIS professionals into a single office has been a game changer for the state, says Tracy Schloss, who heads up the Geospatial Information office. Her office is within the Information Technology Services Division, which is part of the Office of Administration that manages all the ‘business of government’ like human resources, facilities management, and budget and planning. With Missouri’s consolidated IT structure, her office supports 14 of 16 executive agencies.

“Looking at GIS work through the lens of an IT project has changed how we approach our work,” Schloss says. “Requests now come to us in the form of a business request for a state agency, complete with funding to pay for our time. We have learned a lot about defining the scope of a project, and getting the requests in writing and starting to think about return on investment. This approach has saved us many times from the ‘scope creep’ that used to occur in the past when we started doing any GIS for someone. It means we don’t work on projects, though, just because they are ‘good for the state.’ We have to have that business partner with funding before beginning anything.”

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NSGIC Announces Keynote Speaker Meagan Wolfe at First-Ever Elections GeoSummit, August 14, Washington, DC

National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) has announced Meagan Wolfe, Administrator, Wisconsin Elections Commission, will be the keynote speaker at the Elections GeoSummit, on August 14, 2019, in Washington, DC.

The Elections GeoSummit brings together the nation’s leaders in elections management and geographic information systems (GIS) to share leading-edge findings and craft best practices to enhance election systems through 2020 and beyond. The event represents the culmination of NSGIC’s two-year Geo-Enabled Elections project, and features agenda highlights including learnings and best practices from states working to integrate GIS in Elections.

“Leveraging GIS in our electoral systems increases accuracy and efficiency in elections,” says Molly Schar, NSGIC Executive Director. “It ensures every voter has a chance to vote in the right electoral contests. It also makes election management systems easier to update as our physical environment changes through new development, or after the redrawing of boundaries, as occurs through re-districting,” she adds.

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Geo-Enabled Elections News: Case Study #4- North Carolina

Several years ago, we began using GIS data to help our one hundred county boards of elections audit their district assignments for state jurisdictions. These district assignments included county boundaries, precinct boundaries, congressional districts, state legislative districts, and state judicial districts. We compiled GIS data (address points and district boundaries) from several state sources such as our state’s legislative body, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and the North Carolina Geodetic Survey to configure our audit tools.

Our agency provides our county boards of elections with two types of audits, the Interactive GEO Points Map Audit and the Weekly GIS Jurisdictions Audit.

The rest of the case study is available now!

House Approves Additional $10M for Geospatial Mapping to Address Water Quality, Hazard Resilience

The Appropriations Committee outlined support for USGS and 3DEP, designating $5 million for the Great Lakes.

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee has approved an additional $10 million above FY19 funding of $37.6 million as part its U.S. Department of Interior Fiscal Year 2020 bill for fundamental mapping work to be managed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). These funds, described as an essential underpinning of the USGS 3D Elevation Program (3DEP), will support and enhance drinking water protection, hazards resilience, infrastructure design, natural resource management and fundamental research applications.

Of this funding, the Committee allocated $5 million for 3DEP to accelerate the achievement of 100% coverage of the Great Lakes region. The Great Lakes have nearly 11,000 miles of coastline and, with associated lakes and tributaries, make up the largest surface freshwater system on Earth. Environmental impacts like urbanization, industrialization, chemical runoff and pollutants have led to contamination of drinking water, algae blooms, oxygen depletion, habitat degradation, colonization of invasive species and a host of other toxic issues. The 3DEP initiative will provide data that will enable scientists to address these critically advancing concerns.

The Committee report emphasized the House’s support for the continued collaboration with partners to leverage resources provided for 3DEP to achieve the goal of national coverage by 2026, highlighting the “importance of this mission area to conduct detailed surveys and distribute the resulting high-quality and highly accurate topographic, geologic, hydrographic and biographic maps and remotely sensed data to the public.”

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Geo-Enabled Elections News from Washington State: Third Study Reminds Us All Data is Local

Washington state began its Elections Modernization project in 2014, with the aim to improve their election management system. The implementation of GIS became a key tenet of that project, which is currently underway.

Once complete, officials hope that GIS in elections will lead to not only increased efficiency and the assurance that each voter has the opportunity to vote in all the races they are eligible for, but also enable higher-order election functionality, such as same-day registration and automatic registration of all eligible voters.

Throughout the project, the team has relied on data from the state’s counties. Elevating data from many local sources has the benefit that it originates with those who know the areas the best – all data is local, one might say. However, it also involves the challenge that the data comes in different formats and needs translating to work together. In addition, some areas, like tribal lands, may use more approximate locations for voters. Finally, it was found that some counties use their own renditions of boundaries, which may not align with a neighboring county’s version of the same boundaries. The Elections Modernization project is tackling the task of ensuring that all borders align.

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GeoWomen Growing - We Need You

NSGIC (National States Geographic Information Council) launched the GeoWomen initiative a couple of years ago. Recently MAPPS (the U.S. national association of firms in the surveying, spatial data, and geographic information field) joined NSGIC to partner on GeoWomen.

And now we need your perspective as we work together to create meaningful programs and build an inclusive GeoWomen community with the goal of attracting more women into GIS careers and promoting women's leadership in both the public and private sectors.

We're asking you to take a few minutes to a) complete this brief survey yourself and b) share this message with other women in your organization to get their perspectives, as well. All information will be anonymized. Our deadline is May 24, 2019. Thank you for your time and insights.

10 Lessons for GIOs

I’ve been in the GIS profession for over 20 years, and while I don’t have the job title ‘Geographic Information Officer (GIO)’, in Wyoming I manage many of the roles and responsibilities associated with the position in other states. It’s not an easy, straight-forward job, but one thing I’ve learned is that community is integral to success. Few others understand the challenges that a GIO encounters on a daily basis. NSGIC helps me to meet those challenges by providing a mechanism to bring together state GIS leaders, fostering a community that supports our work individually as we partner to bring a collaborative approach to GIS for the nation.

As an extension of the resources we provide to leaders in GIS, NSGIC launched our first ever GIO Academy at our 2019 Midyear Meeting this past March. The purpose of the GIO Academy is to provide focused peer networking and educational opportunities to GIOs, their equivalents, and NSGIC state representatives.

We kicked off our first GIO Academy event with peer-led presentations and discussions around topics such as advocacy, communications, building your brand, and public speaking.

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Second Geo-Enabled Elections Case Study: Wisconsin Identifies Data Quality and Auditing as Critical to Success

Wisconsin’s elections are fully geo-enabled, after a conversion process that started in 2011. The state had concluded that implementing GIS would make the process of assigning voters to the right districts, following the 2010 census and redistricting, more efficient and accurate.

The Wisconsin team’s biggest challenge by far turned out to be the quality of available data – both for voter addresses and for district shapefiles (the geospatial data format that defines geography). While data has improved significantly over time, finding sources of high-quality data to use for auditing and quality control remains a concern, and the team shares some of the approaches considered and used.

The initial step towards integrating GIS in the election process involved running all existing addresses through a commercial geocoder to determine their X and Y coordinates. Next, by comparing this spatial data to district maps, certain issues were automatically flagged for review. While this created a considerable workload for local officials, there were also potential issues that the system at that time was unable to automatically identify, such as voter address points located in the middle of a street.

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State Spotlight: Kentucky

Kent Anness
GIS Manager, Kentucky Office of Technology

Interviewed by Sheila Steffenson

Kentucky GIS Manager Kent Anness has been working in GIS for 30 years and state government for 20 years. Anness got his start in cartography and initially used a scribe tool and darkroom methods for producing map compilations.

Anness says that over the past 20 years, not only has the technology grown, but the accessibility of enterprise GIS has grown as well, allowing for an increased number of users within state government. According to Anness, newer generations see even greater value in the technology.

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