State meets demand for map data

Responding to public demand, New Hampshire has taken GIS data to the Web to provide spatial and map-based information

Overwhelmed by demands from the public that require manual searches for information, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) has turned to the World Wide Web to provide spatial and map-based data.

The department's OneStop Web Geographic Information System application (www.des.state.nh.us/gis/onestop) pulls information from databases throughout state government and combines them into multi-layered maps and text presentations, depending on the complexity of a user's inquiry.

The principal tool used to develop the Web site was ESRI's ArcIMS, a software that allows users to integrate local data sources with Internet data sources in a user-friendly way.

"One of the biggest challenges was trying to decide at what level to present the information," said Chris Simmers, OneStop program manager for the DES. "The use of GIS in-house with GIS-savvy people is one thing, but bringing that to the Web, to make it functional and attractive to the average user, required a major change in philosophy on our part."

GIS developers in DES worked on the application for about a year before it was deemed ready for the public, Simmers said.

The Web site already has proven valuable for government users, he added, even though the original driver for the site was public demand for the data. However, as teams were pulled together from different programs across the government, it became clear what the potential use would be to the government. The Web site is one of the first stops for government users who want to find out what other agencies in government have an interest in a particular issue, such as contaminated sites.

The OneStop site was launched Dec. 21, but time will be taken to gauge early reactions and to see what problems might crop up before its existence is broadly publicized, Simmers said.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

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