NSGIC Latest News

Licensed Commercial Imagery as an Enterprise Resource: The Terms Matter!

“Let’s get everyone working on the same map!”

This is a compelling, succinct goal that speaks to the value of taking an ‘enterprise-wide approach’ to acquiring GIS data resources, including high-resolution aerial photography. It’s a safe bet that the “on the same map” argument was part of the advocacy efforts of states that have successfully sought and received support to build public domain imagery programs.

“On the same map” is also a very relevant objective for states or regions (or even nations) considering a licensed imagery purchase from the emerging market of commercial aerial products. While public domain programs are a great goal, in recent years there has been more growth in the adoption of statewide licensed programs, perhaps because of lower, but not perfectly comparable costs. In a mature geospatial world, imagery is probably an open, public domain resource, but if you’re not there yet, a licensed product could be a good fit.

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Senate Passes GIS Day Resolution Following Successful Passage of Geospatial Data Act

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) led a Senate resolution to designate November 15, 2018 as “National GIS Day.” Senators Baldwin (D-WI), Blumenthal (D-CT), Capito (R-WV), Hassan (D-NH), Inhofe (R-OK), and Wyden (D-OR) joined Hatch and Warner in submitting the resolution.

“The Senate designates November 15, 2018, as ‘National GIS Day’; encourages users of Geographic Information System technology … [including] educators, students, and innovators to continue to employ GIS to learn and explore, to analyze and address societal challenges; and to drive economic growth for the betterment of the people of the United States and individuals around the world.” the three-page resolution concludes.

This recognition by the Senate punctuates the passage of the Geospatial Data Act, included as a component in H.R. 302, the FAA Reauthorization Act signed into law last month.

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State Spotlight: Florida

Ekaterina Fitos
State Geospatial Information Officer

Interviewed by Tim Bohn

Florida is a big, complex state, said GIO Ekaterina Fitos, and the key to coordinating GIS across the state is through a collaborative enterprise approach with GIS focused work groups and engagement of stakeholders.

Just ten months into the job as Florida’s first GIO, Fitos said she is continuing to assess Florida’s statewide spatial data infrastructure. There are plenty of success stories, she said, citing the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s mobile applications one of which assists with notifying the public about state park closures during disasters (Figure 1), the GATOR web application by the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) (Figure 2), and an online system to monitor sea turtles developed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) (Figure 3) .

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Carpe Geo: Becoming a Great GIS Leader

How can you grow into the GIS leader you aspire to be? How can you work better with others? How can you get the most satisfaction out of your GIS career? These are questions that AppGeo believes can be answered through thoughtful application of Carpe Geo principles. Carpe Geo is about seizing the opportunities to do great things with GIS.

Those of you who attended the 2017 NSGIC Annual Conference in Providence, RI may remember hearing Bill Johnson’s Carpe Geo & Parvum Momentum presentation, where he first introduced us to these ideas. Since then, Bill has joined the AppGeo team and at this year’s NSGIC Annual he followed up with Carpe Geo, Part Deux, which explored how the principles of Carpe Geo can help you become a better GIS leader.

Becoming a great GIS leader doesn’t happen overnight. To better understand how one grows and metamorphosizes into that role, consider three lenses or models that can help you understand the growth path.

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State Spotlight: Minnesota

Dan Ross
GIO, Chief Business Technical Officer and CIO, Pollution Control

Interviewed by Tim Bohn and Tim Donze

Minnesota GIO Dan Ross has spent 23 years in state government if you include the three years he spent as a system administrator and adjunct professor teaching GIS at St. Cloud State. In that time, he has seen GIS go from highly collaborative to falling off, and now in resurgence with both data sharing and a standards development.

Five years ago, said Ross, there were no statewide parcels, centerlines with address ranges, addresses or standards to support those data layers. The state “is in much better shape now,” he said. “The community has come together and renewed the collaboration.”

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State Geospatial Policy Organization Lauds “Geospatial Data Act” Language Included in FAA Reauthorization Bill

Participants at the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) Annual Conference cheered at the news that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill passed the Senate this morning.

The legislation contains provisions critical to building the national spatial data infrastructure by establishing a clear vision, assigning responsibility, providing authority and ensuring oversight of federal activities by Congress. The bill includes language previously winding its way through both houses as a standalone bill called the Geospatial Data Act.

“This is a major win for the entire geospatial community. We thank and commend our nation’s lawmakers for enacting this meaningful legislation,” said Dan Ross, geospatial information chief for the state of Minnesota and NSGIC president. “NSGIC members coordinate geospatial policy, technologies, and services across our states. We have the unique perspective of seeing across states - and, together, across the nation - to evaluate the substantial and significant unmet needs stemming from a failure to harness and coordinate efforts. ”

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'Imagery for the Nation' as Timely as Ever

Aerial photography is an incredibly valuable resource to a broad set of uses in the business, government, and research sectors. An aerial view, whether from a satellite or an airborne camera, provides excellent situational awareness, for among other things:

  • Responding to a crisis - like 911 centers coordinating response to everyday emergencies or coordination for wildfires, flooding, and hurricanes
  • Informing real-time consumer decisions and organizational operations - everything from tourism to package delivery
  • Planning for the future - like siting and designing new developments and transportation projects
  • Building map-based datasets of infrastructure and natural assets - to better inventory and analyze how urban and natural systems perform
  • Providing a historical record over time - for dispute resolution and understanding development and change patterns

While it is expensive to acquire, it is practically indisputable that the immense value of accessible, up-to-date, and high-resolution aerial photography dwarfs the costs to capture and distribute the imagery.

So what's the problem? In a nutshell, there's no national model in place to efficiently fund, collect, and provide access to this highly desirable resource, that - unlike most types of products - actually becomes more valuable the more it is put to use.

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Homeland Security Study Focusing on GIS Infrastructure for Disasters

On NSGIC’s behalf, I recently attended the second workshop of the DHS Disasters Interoperability Concept Development Study being conducted by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC).

This workshop follows the announcement that the Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration has $587 million in FY18 supplemental appropriations available for disaster recovery grants.

For the concept development study, OCG is bringing together key stakeholders in the natural hazards disaster communities to assess the current state of data and product exchange technologies used in disaster planning, response, and recovery. The results will aid in developing a series of pilots to advance the state of spatial data infrastructures that support global disaster risk reduction.

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Pilot Project Kicks Off for 3DEP for the Nation Initiative

Seven states will be testing the state lidar acquisition planning guide developed by NSGIC as part of the 3DEP for the Nation collaboration with the USGS National Map 3D Elevation Program and the Federal Geographic Data Committee 3DEP Working Group. Iowa, Illinois, Montana, Ohio, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin will receive a draft of the guide to put into action and report monthly on what worked, what’s insufficient, what’s missing, and which external resources should be referenced. This information will help to refine the guide, which is due to be completed for NSGIC membership use and comment as early as February 2019.

3DEP for the Nation addresses the need for high-quality topographic data and three-dimensional representations of the nation’s natural and constructed features. Believing 3DEP coverage across the US can be most effectively achieved by establishing plans for each individual state and territory, NSGIC is leveraging its strong working relationships with state geospatial information officers and coordinators to develop these plans.

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NSGIC State Representatives Share How Elections Systems Work in Their States

NSGIC state reps survey geo-enabled elections

More than two-thirds of states responded to a nationwide survey on elections data conducted in the first half of 2018. Responses were coordinated by state government representatives who focus on the development and deployment of mapping data and systems across state agencies and local governments.

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New Podcast Explores Role of GIS in Government


In a new collaboration, NSGIC and StateScoop have launched GIS Addressed to feature the perspectives of state government GIS experts on key issues. The series connects the dots between how geographic information systems work, why they are important, and how they fit into government technology agency operations and initiatives.

"Geographic information systems have been a part of the fabric of government for decades. Now, in an era of increased focus on the centralization of technology and on information technology agencies within state and local government, a new day is here for GIS. And it could completely change how technology, data, mapping and more function in government," says Associate Publisher and Director of Strategic Initiatives at StateScoop, Jake Williams.

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Kim Cloud Receives Delaware Award for Excellence and Commitment in State Service

Major kudos to NSGIC member Kim Cloud, who received the Delaware Award for Excellence and Commitment in State Service for her work with geographic information systems (GIS) at the Delaware Governor’s Awards Ceremony on May 7, 2018. The award is a statewide recognition given to five State of Delaware employees, or groups of employees, who exemplify the highest standards of excellence and commitment in state service.

kim cloud geospatial service award delawareThe Department of Technology and Information (DTI) nominated Kim Cloud for the Delaware Award for Excellence and Commitment in State Service because of her outstanding state service and ongoing commitment to DTI. Kim has worked at DTI since July 19, 2004, and has spent her tenure as a software engineer for the Application Delivery team. Kim’s passion is working with geospatial data (location-based data) and GIS software and tools, i.e. FirstMap, which is a GIS solution that provides a centralized repository and enables users to maintain and analyze spatial data.

Kim’s dedication to GIS excellence in the state is not limited to her work at DTI. She received her Geographic Information Systems Professional Certification from the GIS Certification Institute in December 2011 and is a member of the Delaware Geographic Data Committee and the National States Geographic Information Council. Additionally, Kim is an adjunct faculty member at Wilmington University and teaches an Applied Geographic Systems course.

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Value of a GIO

Having spent a dozen years in the role of state GIO, I have thought a lot about the importance of that work. We in government GIS often talk in terms like “coordination,” and certainly coordination and governance is the core of what a GIO does. But why is it so much more important in GIS than in other subdisciplines of IT? The rest of the data world is catching on, with the (fairly recent) advent of chief data officers. But we in GIS have been talking about and working on those issues for as long as I’ve been in the field.

What’s so special about spatial? I think it comes down to a simple fact. The great majority of the financial investment required to get a GIS initiative to the finish line goes into data that is not specific to the project. That’s really not true in other data-intensive disciplines. It was especially true in the early days, but foundational data continues to be a substantial investment. The data that it takes to make a plain old base map adds up to a big cost. And everybody doing GIS needs that same base map data. So it has always been obvious to anyone without unlimited funds that they’re better off sharing that cost. And that only happens through coordination.


We probably could do a better job selling the importance of that concept outside of the GIS world. And the term that rings the right bells is cost avoidance. GIS coordination saves money, and lots of it, by preventing duplication of efforts. In the absence of GIS coordination, everyone who needs the foundational data would either build it themselves or buy it from a commercial source. That could mean the quality of the data might be inferior and it would certainly be more costly. The return on investment for collaborative GIS is exponential.

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Federal Agencies Support State Lidar Plans in “3DEP for the Nation” Project

NSGIC’s participation in the recent USGS 3DEP Working Group meeting gave us a chance to connect with NRCS, USGS, FEMA, NOAA, USFWS, USACE, USDA FS, and other federal agencies to discuss a strategy for completing national lidar coverage by 2023. (Acronyms translated below.) Coordination with and within US states and territories is a key component of this strategy and NSGIC, with a grant from USGS, is taking the lead on that coordination.

The meeting discussion included the benefits of interagency cooperation and methods for leveraging federal and state resources toward the efficient and effective capture of lidar. Coordination issues of concern included variations in:

  • Mission specific needs, for example, leaf on/off
  • Quality level
  • Budget schedules
  • Geographic units of capture and delivery
  • Centralized vs decentralized agency planning structures

The agencies discussed the value of state plans to provide information about priorities for lidar acquisition and to identify key stakeholders. More importantly, they recognized the planning efforts as a means for states to self-organize with regard to lidar; to establish a community and process that can vet stakeholder lidar data acquisition needs, outline schedules and budgets, and identify and solicit funding. The creation of a state plan template was seen as a means to construct the information in a manner that could support:

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Support for Geospatial Data Act More Critical Than Ever

In the last Congress - the 114th - some 9,600 bills were introduced. Less than 4% of them were signed into law. These are daunting numbers when you are pushing for a piece of legislation that you think is important enough to make it to the finish line. NSGIC has encouraged members of our community to support the Geospatial Data Act (S.2128 and H.R.4395) from the start, but that support has never been as critical as it is right now.

On a conference call with other member of the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO) this week, there was significant discussion about some of the issues standing in the way of unanimous support. Several organizations (NSGIC included) have been working to develop language palatable to associations with vastly different memberships. Folks in the open data/open government community have expressed concern about language around proprietary or licensed data being available on the GeoPlatform. Still others are caught up in a desire to include language related to licensure and procurement. Neither of these issues is appropriate to try to resolve in this bill. It should be noted, however, that the Geospatial Data Act is fundamentally an open data bill.

The irony is that without exception (to my knowledge, anyway), the geospatial community can agree that what the Geospatial Data Act is trying to accomplish is a good thing. The legislation codifies existing executive orders and other guidance documents that direct the work of the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC), the body that promotes national coordination in developing, using, sharing and disseminating geospatial data. It gives the FGDC the authority to make federal agencies follow some existing common sense rules and provides Congressional oversight over the geospatial activities of FGDC members and other agencies. It provides a great deal more clout to input developed by the multi-sector membership of FGDC’s National Geospatial Advisory Committee. And very importantly to NSGIC, it requires federal agencies to coordinate and work in partnership with other federal agencies, agencies of state, tribal, and local governments, institutions of higher education, and the private sector with the collective goal of achieving a robust national spatial data infrastructure.

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Midyear Meeting Takeaways for the Geo-Enabled Elections Project

NSGIC's Midyear Meeting - held last month in Salt Lake City - was an extremely productive time for the Geo-Enabled Elections project. Our steering group met in person for the first time, we held a four-hour workshop for conference participants, including state and federal government representatives, sponsors and other partners, and we ended the week with a well-attended plenary session.

Workshop Outcomes

Steering Group Workshop

The 13 members of the steering group met for a pre-conference workshop and identified a short list of best-practice areas to position a state for geo-enabling their elections system. These initial items are:
  • Statewide precinct layer with an associated maintenance process
  • Current statewide address info
  • Implementation options that give local control for locating address data
  • Standardization of terminology
  • System or process where GIS technologies and data are locally sourced and rolled up to the state
  • Contextual map data (for example, current aerial photography)

General Workshop

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NSGIC Hiring Membership & Meetings Coordinator

Come work for NSGIC! We are hiring a new Membership & Meetings Coordinator who will focus on the areas of membership, events management and administration. Familiarity with the geospatial community and association experience are especially helpful. View the job posting for more information and to submit your resume.

Enhancing the Arizona Address Data Management Ecosystem: Midyear Meeting Presentation Highlight

With our Midyear Meeting fast approaching, we wanted to slow down and take a moment to highlight some of the presentations and panels that we are looking forward to. This week we are highlighting a presentation titled “Enhancing the Arizona Address Data Management Ecosystem," presented by Jenna Straface, Gene Trobia, Bo Guo, and Howard Ward on Tuesday, February 27. Read Jenna's presentation description below for a preview of the discussion content:

As one of the two original pilot states for the National Address Database (NAD) project, Arizona continues to build a statewide address management ecosystem. Key success factors include support of the Arizona Geographic Information Council (AGIC) and the Arizona State Land Department (ASLD), active state and local government collaboration, strategic public and private partnerships, participation in NSGIC's Address & Transportation Committee’s identification of national guidelines and best practices, and the adoption of new technology to improve data workflows and validate authoritative addresses.

The presenters will provide a brief overview of the Arizona Address Management Ecosystem and discuss several of its key components:

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GIS in Computer Science Education: Midyear Meeting Panel Highlight

With our Midyear Meeting fast approaching, we wanted to slow down and take a moment to highlight some of the presentations and panels that we are looking forward to. The first panel we are highlighting is titled “GIS in Computer Science Education” and will be presented by Karen Rogers (WY) on Thursday, March 1. Read Karen’s statement below for a preview of the discussion content:

I was asked to be on the Computer Science Education Task Force in Wyoming, an effort led by the Department of Education. This diverse group has been meeting since September of 2017 to formulate strategies and ideas for integrating computer science (CS) in the classroom, as well as encouraging elected officials to pass legislation to formally acknowledge the importance of CS being taught to all grades in all schools.

Part of the discussion has centered on teaching computational thinking and the foundation of CS starting in elementary school so that all students have a basic fluency in CS by the time they enter middle school. From there, similar to electives like band or art, students can expand their learning and literacy in the subject and begin to specialize in the areas they find most interesting.

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Geo-Enabled Election Project Gathers Momentum

When I joined the NSGIC staff a month ago as the geospatial programs manager, I learned very quickly that NSGIC is all about collaboration. This was great news to me because my focus in the next two years will be on the Geo-Enhanced Elections project, and it’s going to require a lot of collaboration!

GIS is relatively new to state elections implementations, though we are aware of several successful state implementations. When complete, a full GIS integration with a state election management system creates a map-based model of all the geographic features that interact in the election process and its results: district, precinct and ballot area boundaries; voter residence locations; polling places and drop-off locations; and address-based presentation of elected officials. The GIS digital model can significantly enhance accuracy, transparency, and efficiency of our representative government.

The Geo-Enabled Elections project fits within NSGIC’s “sweet spot” of working together to advance valuable state GIS capabilities through coordination, collaboration, communication and subject matter expertise support.

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