NSGIC Latest News

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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Nobel Prize winner George Stigler said “a transition period is a period between two transition periods.” After almost 17 years with Utah’s Automated Geographic Reference Center (AGRC), five of them as director, I am about to transition into a new role with a new organization.

Next week, I’ll hand over my key card to the Utah AGRC office, take a two week break, and then head down the street to the Wasatch Front Regional Council, the metropolitan planning organization for the Salt Lake - Ogden metro area. My new job is leading WFRC's section of GIS, data science and transportation modeling staff, in supporting mid- and long-term planning for infrastructure projects, transit, economic development, land use and air quality.

This change is bittersweet, for sure, for many reasons - I am leaving a job that I’ve loved and found fulfilling, with an outstanding team and colleagues across state and local government - and also because I will be passing along Utah's NSGIC State Rep torch (a la Minecraft) that has connected me to so much expertise and important personal and professional connections.

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NSGIC Welcomes New Staff Members

NSGIC recently announced the addition of two new staff members to the team: Bronwyn Walls as Communications Coordinator and Jamie Chesser as Geospatial Programs Manager.

bronwyn headshot

Bronwyn Walls - Communications Coordinator

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Mapping the Last Frontier: NOAA Award to Assist Alaska's Rural Coastal Communities

Alaska was recently selected to receive a 2018 - 2020 Digital Coast Fellowship. This award will provide long-term benefits for Alaskans who reside in coast communities, 80 percent of whom are vulnerable to extreme weather events and storm flooding.

The project - titled Bringing Alaska Coastal Communities Online to the Digital Coast: Coastal Flood Mapping for Rural Alaska - will build upon existing data, online mapping tools and partnerships to assist Alaska in responding to coastal flood hazards. This includes efforts to:

  • Develop a coastal flood forecast and catalog map tool

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GIS Day Marks Reintroduction of Geospatial Data Act

This afternoon, the Geospatial Data Act (GDA) was introduced in the Senate by Senators Hatch (R-UT), Warner (D-VA), Heller (R-NV), Wyden (OR), Boozman (R-AR) and Klobuchar (D-MN) as S.2128 and in the House by Representatives Westerman (R-AR) and Moulton (D-MA) as H.R.4395. NSGIC has supported the GDA in a few different forms, it having been introduced in a previous Congress, as well as having undergone revisions since its last introduction. It has retained its critical core – developing a national spatial data infrastructure (NSDI) that will significantly improve government services for citizens across the country.

Working with partner organizations, we delivered a GDA support letter that included other well-respected national organizations and geospatial technology and services companies. It is the strongest showing of support for the GDA that has ever been garnered. I had the opportunity to join a few NSGIC colleagues – Cy Smith (OR), Shelby Johnson (AR), Dan Ross (MN) and our executive director, Molly Schar – for a Capitol Hill GIS Day reception we co-hosted with AAG and Esri. It was an excellent opportunity to speak with lawmakers and their staff members about why the GDA is so important, and it also gave us a chance to talk with the other nonprofit and corporate representatives in the room who are our partners in supporting this legislation. With transparent and coordinated advocacy efforts, we can leverage the momentum building in the geospatial community for this bipartisan, “good government” bill.

As I said in my remarks during the reception this afternoon, developing a national spatial data infrastructure is a concept that we have struggled with for the past 24 years – since the signing of Executive Order 12906 in 1993. The NSDI, as a concept, has mostly been an federal interagency pursuit, with little comparatively little consideration to harnessing the significant geospatial capabilities that state, tribe, regional or local governments, and the commercial sector have developed in the past two decades. The GDA codifies a strong multi-sector governance structure for NSDI strategy and activities, and it mandates Congressional oversight of federal geospatial expenditures. There are two specific provisions of this bill that NSGIC believes will be difference makers toward the achievement of a fully functional, and truly 'national' spatial data infrastructure.

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Is the Future of NAIP Aerial Photography in Trouble?

Potential changes to the USDA's NAIP one-meter color aerial photography program were a hot topic of discussion at today's FGDC Coordination Group meeting.

In response to reduced funding, USDA is currently reevaluating the efficacy of the NAIP program. Reduced funding for NAIP is due to agency budget cuts, partially met commitments by federal partner agencies outside of USDA, and later-than-desired transfers of partner funding that require USDA to take on extra financial risk.

Accordingly, the NAIP acquisition contract renewals will be for one year only in 2018 and the NAIP flights are slated to move back to a three-year cycle. Notably, USDA is considering subscribing to a commercial imagery subscription starting as early as 2019, and has determined that a USDA-only COTS license would meet USDA needs while cutting their internal acquisition costs by 50% and improving resolution by 2x. USDA also stated that it was clear that it would only take a few agencies acquiring their own exclusive commercial imagery subscriptions before those costs exceeded the overall cost of NAIP.

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USGS 3DEP Lidar Indexing for Continental US

Last month, the USGS released a 2 page fact sheet outlining their plans to align their 3DEP Lidar program with a standardized national grid. The proposed grid would guide the shape of proposed 3DEP grant projects (optional for 2018 but required in 2019) and, presumably, the distribution files for 3DEP data.

This new component of the 3DEP program has been encouraged by NSGIC members in recent years. The grid may prove useful as a framework for negotiating coverage and costs between adjacent project/interest areas. It is also likely the grid will help USGS facilitate 'infill' between larger gaps found between proposed projects and/or existing data.

Also of note, the US National Grid system, based on the military reference system, was given consideration but in the end was not selected. The logic seems solid on this for the reasons USGS cites, although it does mean that most projects will no longer have a true North-South orientation. (Chalk this up in the 'if no one's perfectly satisfied, you might have a good solution' category).

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NSGIC Launches "Geo-Enabled Elections" Project to Enhance Elections Management with Geospatial Data & Technology

Today, the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) announced a two-year project dubbed “Geo-Enbled Elections” Project to boost state-led efforts to standardize the application of geographic information systems (GIS) to support elections management and engagement between office holders and their constituents. These essential upgrades will benefit voters by increasing political boundary precision—so they know with certainty who represents them and what will be on their ballots each election.

The Geo-Enabled Elections Project will compile and promote best practices for the use of GIS to develop and sustain a map-based digital database to support state election offices that contains:

  • State, municipal, and local service district boundaries
  • Voting precinct boundaries, precinct assignments, and polling places
  • Constituent service areas to connect residents to elected officials, government services, public notices, and other location specific information

“The information systems behind our elections process can benefit greatly from integrating precise, authoritative geographic data. This has never been more important, as it will enhance efficiency and integrity while laying the groundwork to better connect constituents with their representatives and available government services” said NSGIC Executive Director Molly Schar. “In partnership with the bipartisan Democracy Fund Voice, we will be working to dramatically enhance the quality, efficiency, and collective trust in election systems in states across the country.”

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Happy Ada Lovelace Day - Celebrating Women in STEM

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, a day to celebrate the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

I first became aware of this celebration three years ago by happenstance when a friend of mine simply asked, "Are you doing anything special on Ada Lovelace Day?" I wasn't - I had no idea who Ada Lovelace was and what Ada Lovelace Day was about. Wikipedia quickly filled in the blanks.

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (December 10, 1815 - November 27, 1852) was the only child of the poet Lord Byron and his wife Anne Isabella Byron. Byron separated from his wife a month after Ada was born and left England forever four months later. Ada's mother remained bitter at Lord Byron and promoted Ada's interest in mathematics and logic in an effort to prevent her from following in her father’s footsteps.

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NSGIC 2017 Annual in Review

In case you missed the NSGIC 2017 Annual Conference, here are the highlights from my perspective. It was phenomenal (and exhausting at the same time) once again, and I thank all those who contributed their time and hard work to make it happen. (Members can log in to explore notes and presentation slides in the archives.)

Leadership Development Workshop

The primary takeaway from the Leadership Workshop on Monday is the triad ‘Mentor - Coach - Champion’. See an up and coming talent? Offer to mentor them. New to your career and looking for insights and help? Ask a trusted colleague to mentor you. Witness a meeting or conversation that could have gone better? Find a way to offer advice to coach and improve. Impressed with a person, product or outcome? Speak up and be their champion. However you choose to do it, don’t be afraid to step up and be a leader. That can take shape in a variety of ways and forms, so pick up your ball and run with it.>

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GWU Counting for Dollars, Census-Informed Federal Program Funds

At least a couple times a year, state GIS offices are apt to encounter some mention of the importance of the Census Bureau having the best possible GIS roads and address data from their state, as the Bureau prepares for its next decennial census count.

Click to open an interactive map of the Counting for Dollars dataThe argument goes like this...

  1. Better road and address data gives a state the best chance for the Bureau achieving a full count of its residents, and
  2. On a per capita basis, per year, billions of dollars in federal program funding are determined by formulas that use state population and other census-derived demographic data, so,
  3. There is a bit of a zero-sum-game at work, the fuller your state’s count of residents, the more of its rightful, equitable share will be received from these programs.

Last month, Professor Andrew Reamer of the George Washington University Institute of Public Policy, published an analysis of 16 large federal programs that utilize Census-derived datasets to set state funding levels, with details on the methodology used, and (a drum roll please), specific data for each program and state. In the study, titled Counting for Dollars 2020: The Role of the Decennial Census in the Geographic Distribution of Federal Funds, the per capita totals across the 16 programs that were examined were certainly not linear with respect to population, ranging from a high of $4,583 (DC) to a low of $1,086 (UT, what?!) with a national average of $1,838 (US).

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Massachusetts Chief Digital Officer to Keynote NSGIC 2017 Annual Conference

Holly St. Clair, chief digital officer for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, will deliver the keynote address to kick off the 2017 Annual Conference of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) on September 26 in Providence, RI.

In ‘Integrating Data in Digital Services for State Government,’ St. Clair will explore the challenge of improving digital government services for constituents. “Ensuring that constituents have friction-free access to services and related information is essential to effective government,” says St. Clair. “How can we use data and analytics to improve the constituent experience? - how do we make every interaction with Massachusetts government simpler, faster, more meaningful, and wicked awesome?”

As the CDO of Massachusetts, St. Clair leads its Digital Services office, where she currently manages the reimagining and overhaul of the state’s website. St. Clair has a proven history of using data and technology in innovative ways that help people and their governments to interact to achieve better outcomes. She joined Massachusetts government initially to create the state’s first Data Office. Prior to joining the state, St. Clair served as the director of data services at the Boston-region Metropolitan Area Planning Council, overseeing the agency’s activities in the fields of data management, data analysis, research and public access to data. St. Clair pioneered the use of advanced decision support tools in metropolitan Boston, managing a variety of projects that use scenarios modeling, 3D environments, community indicators and innovative meeting formats to engage stakeholders in dialogue about policy choices.

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Geospatial Data Act: NSGIC's Position in a Nutshell

Over the weekend, I fielded an inquiry from long time colleague in a related geospatial field: "What is NSGIC's current stand on the GDA legislation?"

My response encompassed three points, with which NSGIC has been consistent:

  1. NSGIC supports the Geospatial Data Act,
  2. NSGIC acknowledges the importance of further improvements that seek to build consensus support for the bill across the geospatial professional community prior to it being heard by Committee, and
  3. NSGIC is actively participating on a working group within the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO), with the hope of delivering recommended modifications to the bill prior to October 1.

More specifically, we feel that the focus should now be on finding agreement on how any reference to geospatial procurement and licensing can be balanced to best represent current practices. This is because on the whole, we don't feel there is too much that is in need of a fix in these areas in the real world.

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Null Island is No Place to Live

MZ Null Island Sticker

There’s no doubting that the fictional Null Island concept has lots of fans. Null Island stickers were a popular giveaway at this month’s FOSS4G conference in Boston and the island was referenced, just for fun, in the slides of several talks. Null Island even has its own Wikipedia page.

But you wouldn’t ever want to live there. In the real world, the only thing at Null Island’s location in the Atlantic — Latitude 0, Longitude 0 — may be a weather buoy. It sounds like a wet, cold, and lonely place.

Null Island makes for a great metaphor. It’s the geographic location that computers may use for an incident, event, or object in the real world when they don’t have any more detailed positioning. That rural business you can’t find on your favorite global mapping platform it’s on Null Island. The accident at a new home under construction unless the 911 center had it in their maps already it likely happened on Null Island. You get the picture.

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Geospatial Data Act: The Latest

I’ll start by saying that NSGIC’s position continues to be that we support the Geospatial Data Act of 2017. From the perspective of the state geographic information officers and coordinating bodies, the GDA charts a course for a true, useful, robust national spatial data infrastructure. This includes positioning the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) within the Office of Management and Budget, collaboratively sustaining the GeoPlatform for shared national data services, recommitting to the importance of data standards, and advancing other long-term strategic goals for geospatial infrastructure.

The GDA asks federal agencies (except where doing so would compromise national security) to look at where and how they spend money on GIS, and to provide that information to Congress. This is good stewardship of taxpayer dollars, because it will allow Congress and the public to see where efforts could be better aligned and cost savings achieved. And it looks not just at efforts that are overlapping between federal agencies, but also work being done at the state and local levels. This is important - you can’t manage well without measuring.

The GDA also strengthens the ability for non-federal stakeholders, including the private sector and academia, to provide input as part of the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) to the FGDC. The FGDC, NGAC, and other governance constructs would all benefit from being codified into law by the GDA, versus the existing policy that is supported largely in the form of executive order.

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Important Opportunity to Provide Geospatial Guidance to FCC

When the FCC employed census blocks for Form 477 broadband coverage mapping in 2014, thousands of rural Utah addresses (red) suddenly appeared as covered by the expanded census block service areas (blue).

Important Updates

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NSGIC Announces Staff Addition

National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) announced today that Michelle M. Jones has joined the staff in a newly-created role that spans membership, events management, communications, sponsorship and administration. As manager, membership and communications, Michelle will provide critical support of NSGIC’s organizational growth strategies of increasing reach, accelerating impact and building the NSGIC brand.

“Michelle brings extensive experience in planning and executing mission-critical meetings and projects,” said Molly Schar, NSGIC executive director. “She has great enthusiasm for the work of NSGIC and our member states. I’m confident Michelle will bolster NSGIC’s efforts to provide a robust forum for state-led sharing of best practices and facilitate critical connections across the geospatial ecosystem.”

NSGIC’s two major meetings – the annual conference held in the fall and mid-year meeting held in the spring – anchor the organization’s event calendar. NSGIC members, partners and sponsors participate year-round on joint projects, advocacy initiatives, educational programming and committee work. A recent move to a new online community platform has increased the opportunities for NSGIC stakeholders to engage with one another and collaborate.

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NSGIC Stands Behind Geospatial Data Act, Lauds New Language Clarifying Intent

The Geospatial Data Act (S.1253) has been the subject of much discussion in the past couple of weeks after receiving significant attention by some members of the geospatial community concerned about the potential of the proposed legislation to add restrictions to federal procurement of geospatial data and services.

NSGIC - the voice of the states on geospatial issues - continues to support S.1253, expected to be stronger than ever after minor language revisions that clarify the original intent of the bill to substantially strengthen efforts to build a robust national spatial data infrastructure (NSDI) and reduce duplication of data gathering and processing activities. The changes to S.1253 focus on Sections 2 and 11 and clarify that the intent of the bill is not to expand the scope of the Brooks Act or the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).

“We are pleased Senators Hatch, Warner and Wyden, co-sponsors of the Geospatial Data Act, are actively working with members of the geospatial community to address a misconception raised by several stakeholders regarding the intent of the bill,” says NSGIC President Bert Granberg. “This bill will be stronger, and it will better position the nation for increased benefits from the use of map technologies to drive efficiency in all activities from everyday services, infrastructure management, economic development, and even large scale disaster response.”

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