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States Continue to Spur Growth of National Address Database, Bringing in New Partners & Making Strong Case for Multi-Use Data

New Orleans, LA - At a pair of sessions presented at the annual conference of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) on Sept. 22 in Dallas, representatives from the US Department of Transportation delivered the latest update in the efforts to build a robust National Address Database to meet the needs for open and authoritative data across government and industry.

Steve Lewis, Geospatial Information Officer for the USDOT, provided a live demonstration of an innovative new visualization tool for the National Address Database (NAD), developed in partnership with geospatial technology giant Esri. This “sneak peek” offered a glimpse of the future of the NAD, which had been previously available only in bulk download.

“The National Address Database is clearly moving forward with greater momentum as additional partners bring their unique insights and tools to the table,” said NSGIC President Frank Winters, who serves as Geospatial Information Officer for the State of New York. Over his leadership term with NSGIC, Winters has devoted significant energy to convening a widening group of private sector firms to discuss authoritative data for wayfinding and other use cases for a true National Address Database.

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State GIS Projects Recognized with Esri’s Special Achievement in GIS Awards

It was terrific to see so much exciting state GIS work highlighted during the Esri Users Conference this year! Of special note were Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) Award Winners among NSGIC's membership:

Arizona State Land Department and several other counties in Arizona - AZGeo is the state of Arizona’s geospatial solution to duplicative (non-authoritative) datasets, inefficient workflows and collaboration platform challenges. It provides a centralized access point for authoritative data, cross jurisdictional collaborative space, GIS tools and functionality to under-served and/or resource challenged entities, custom applications, and much more to citizen’s and GIS professionals in Arizona. Kudos to NSGIC members Jenna Leveille and Shea Lemar!

State of Arkansas, Parks & Tourism Dept - At the onset of COVID-19, the GIS program leveraged all available GIS tools and technology to collect, analyze, and report data to make reliable data-driven decisions at the highest level of state government. The COVID-19 Impact Analysis Dashboard enabled their agency to make critical decisions regarding staffing concerns, PPE and supply distribution, visitor and staff safety, as well as monitoring the impacts of revenue and expenses.

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Prepare: Redistricting Approaches! (and Observations)

Really big decisions are about to be made in your state. Say what you want about the redistricting process, but the fact is, somebody’s going to have to put the results to work to run our future elections. And with that in mind, I've dusted off my list of observations from 10 years back, about what makes for the best set of boundaries from a standpoint of state election directors, local elections clerks, and GIOs and others supporting them with GIS.

The observations I’m sharing are based on first-hand experience in 2011-12, watching the redistricting process from a safe distance, while preparing to support the use of the new districts. During this period, Utah was one of the first states to integrate GIS-based address locations, voting unit polygons (precincts and sub/splits), aerial photography, and parcel base maps into its statewide elections management system. In addition, the Utah Legislature deployed a 'build-your-own' redistricting plan webmap, another first. As a result, GIS was front and center to the redistricting stage, exposing new users to its power and broadening their appreciation for mapping technology and authoritative data.

Oh, and keep in mind that just to make it more interesting, the Census Bureau is delaying its first 2020 census data product release -- the block-level redistricting files -- by 6 months. With the first glimpses of the 2020 count details not available until at least September 30, we are looking at a compressed redistricting process, and the local and state elections management work to implement new districts, into a few short, but hectic months. [cue up♪GNR’s “Welcome to the Jungle” here♪]

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Transportation Best Practices: On the Road to Success

NSGIC issued Best Practices for State Geospatial Maturity: Transportation today. In addition to being the backbone of our public safety and emergency management infrastructure systems, transportation data have achieved near-ubiquity in the hands of smart device users.

A viable transportation network, particularly a roadway network, is of paramount importance in our society, having the primary purposes of connecting people and places and allowing the movement of people, goods, and vehicles safely and efficiently. Transportation data allow us to spatially model and depict the network for the purposes of planning, asset management, navigation, and routing.

Growing from NSGIC’s 2019 Geospatial Maturity Assessment (GMA), this document is the fourth in a series of best practices collected from “honor roll” states based on individual GMA report cards. Coming soon: cadastre data, hydrography data, elevation data, and orthoimagery data.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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