Survey Says City/County GIS Use Up, But Environmental Potential Not Realized

Local governments are not maximizing the use or potential of geographic information system (GIS) technology, according to a recent survey commissioned by the National Association of Counties and the International City/County Management Association.

Despite the fact that GIS use rose almost 50 percent over a five-year period, local government managers are not realizing the full potential of the technology, especially the ecological understanding it promotes, according to American Forests, a national citizens conservation group that conducted the survey of 200 jurisdictions. Since 1992, GIS has started to permeate many local planning, public works and utilities sections of local governments and is just beginning to take hold in local public safety, economic development/growth management and other departments.

Still, American Forests found that despite the fact that 75 percent of local leaders profess to be concerned about development and growth, less than half those leaders expressed a high priority in using GIS to assess those issues. The survey found that GIS use is more prevalent in the West and South but trails in the Northeast. Large counties are putting the greatest level of resources toward GIS use, but large cities indicated plans to explore the technology. An executive summary of the survey is available at www.amfor.or/ufc/pubs/gitsumm.html.

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