Geographic Information Systems

Article Posted by Michael Byrne, Geospatial Information Officer (GIO)

04/14/09 Video Blog

GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems, and it’s a process by which we can assemble geographic data in individual layers representing a certain kind of content. So a content could be general plans from the local government, or it could be streams, or it could be roads, or it could be the distribution of some kind of thing.

What GIS allows us to do is provide a collaborative environment to understand unintended things that we didn’t first get when we looked at the map. We just saw roads and then didn’t understand the housing density or where the centers of economic development were. We don’t get the full picture. So GIS in a digital form allows us to combine maps in very unique and novel ways that we had no idea would give us the result that it is now.

The role of the Geographic Information Officer, the GIO, in California is really to coordinate GIS resources in the state. We have lots of GIS resources in many different departments, and oftentimes they’re doing wonderful things but they may not know exactly that other departments are doing similar things. We want to make sure those resources are well coordinated so we can maximize our potential.

The priorities for the Geographic Information Officer are really built out of a taskforce report that came out last year that Teri commissioned, our CIO commissioned. That taskforce outlined several things for us to do.

One was to implement some strategies along homeland security and homeland protection, and fortunately we were awarded a grant toward that end. We’ll be focusing in that grant on developing data services around imagery, roads and parcels, so that any state agency will be able to use the common base map from those single sets of data services. Right now we’re not doing that.

Our second big priority will be around developing policies and procedures and standards so that all of those state agencies that have centers of excellence for GIS can be really aligned in terms of GIS resource and analysis.

And our third set of priorities is really aligning the set of business investors, whether it’s new funding from new legislative programs, or stimulus money, or other things that are going on in the state that allow for a proliferation of GIS to be aligned along a common theme. We really want to focus on those three areas.

Our overall goal is really around framework data development and framework data sharing. The frameworks are the big layers that everyone uses; imagery, roads, parcels, elevations, streams, government units. All of these things are critical for us along multiple applications.

One of the most important fabrics for us in GIS is a base map, and recently our biggest investment in base maps has been aerial imagery. Aerial imagery is collected by the federal government, some by the state government, and there’s a high investment by local government. These are high-resolution aerial photographs, and everyone is using these things. And what we want to do is combine those so that we see the same image base being used by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection for fire response, for school siting, for land use policy decisions. That will be a great resource for us.

Another spectacular example along those lines is the parcel map. The parcel map is the key fabric at local government for everything, from planning to school design to tax base — pretty much everything. Well, in state government we want to have maximum access to that information for the full suite of state resources as well. It could be emergency response, it could be education, it could be health care delivery, it could be planning.

So those two examples are probably our key issues in state government collaboration.