Governors' IT task force emphasizes GIS

ST. LOUIS -- The National Governors' Association's Information Technology Task Force met Monday to discuss an array of IT issues, including the use of geographic information systems, the role of the chief information officer and ways states can work more closely with the private sector.

The meeting was headed by Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer (R), co-chairman of the task force, who spoke about the importance of GIS. Geringer showed a GIS display of Wyoming schools, which identified the location of schools in regions of the state, the student/teacher ratios at the schools and even the schools' proximity to the nearest fast-food restaurants. The GIS used a system from Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc.

Geringer called GIS as important an "advancement in using technology as Web browsers were in using the Internet."

ESRI president and chief executive officer Jack Dangermond also addressed the task force, presenting examples of how GIS technology is helping cities reach planning and information dissemination goals in the areas of education, law enforcement and environmental safety.

He made the argument that GIS was not a tool but had risen to the level of a utility. "I want everyone to consider GIS as an information system [in the 21st century], not just for isolated projects," Dangermond said.

Karen Siderelis, director of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), a group of senior state GIS managers, asked the task force to commit to a working partnership with NSGIC to advance the cause of building a national spatial data infrastructure.

"It's one of these things we've dreamed of since we began in 1991: a partnership with the NGA," Siderelis said. "There's an increased interest on the part of the state leadership on the topic of GIS."

The meeting continued with a discussion, led by Kentucky chief information officer Aldona Valicenti, of the emerging role of state CIOs. Valicenti said she viewed the CIO as a manager of technology and as an "enabler that allows technology to permeate all of a state's organizations."

Valicenti, who joined state government from the private sector, said one way her current role differs from working in a business is that in government, if you purchase shoddy equipment, contract with subpar vendors or fail to plan properly, the government and citizens suffer, but the job ultimately remains.

"A state, a government, don't go out of business if they are unsuccessful like in the private sector," she said.

Valicenti said she is assessing step by step the costs and needs of all the stakeholders in an upcoming Kentucky project to launch a statewide, integrated criminal justice system. "I think a CIO needs to identify areas where a state can share resources," she said. "Sharing is good."

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