Opening up GIS borders
- By Heather Harreld
- Jul 17, 2000
The Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded a contract to Environmental
Systems Research Institute Inc. (ESRI) last month to develop and deploy
a geographic information system that consolidates the agency's GIS data
and makes it available via the Internet to state and local governments to
aid in their community development work.
As part of the $10 million, five-year contract, ESRI will customize
existing applications, integrate them into a consolidated GIS and design
a software tool to give local governments data and mapping capabilities
for sophisticated information analysis and data sharing. The contract is
part of HUD's Community 2020 project, designed to improve the ability of
communities to make local planning decisions.
The new Empowerment Information System will integrate HUD's business
intelligence support software, its enterprise data warehouse and its existing
GIS software to run on one enterprise hardware platform, said David Nystrom,
senior information technology adviser at HUD.
"There's a real move toward consolidating, integrating and eliminating — there are way too many systems at HUD," Nystrom said. "What the GIS platform
will do is actually allow people to do analysis on HUD data so communities
can get into federal assets and do queries."
For example, Wayne County, Mich., has already taken its high-resolution
GIS data — which the county has spent millions to gather and develop — and
merged it with HUD's data. "When somebody dials in to HUD and zooms down
to Wayne County, the high- resolution data is county data, not HUD data,"
Nystrom said. "A lot of the federal assets are really not high enough resolution
for the counties. It's a rich source of data that the communities really
In addition to consolidating HUD's systems on a single GIS platform,
ESRI will design a community planning software tool for local governments
to use to access GIS data from disparate servers via the World Wide Web.
Although state and local governments maintain geospatial data on their systems
that is particular to their region, they currently have to build base maps
or foundations to add geospatial data generated from other sources, such
as federal agencies, to generate comprehensive maps.
The new tool will allow local governments to access geospatial data
from other agencies via the Internet. A local government could, for example,
add HUD real estate data to its own maps and narrow those maps to show the
exact locations of HUD homes, in contrast to a map that now shows the block
where a HUD home is located.
ESRI will also be rolling out Internet applications to allow citizens
to access HUD geospatial data via the Internet. "If you need census data,
you could actually go out to that node [on the Internet] and actually bring
in the latest census tracking information for your part of the county,"
said Todd Rogers, federal business development manager for civilian agencies
"The intent is that the government is going to provide this type of
information at little or no cost to the consumer," he said. "We've already
paid for it as taxpayers."
Rogers added, "Generally, data should be available at a very low cost
to the users. We're trying to create a situation where people share information
ESRI will use two of its highly scalable software programs for HUD's
Empowerment Information System. ArcIMS 3, the company's new Internet mapping
system and GIS, and ArcSDE, its spatial database engine, will address HUD's
requirements for database management, analysis and dissemination.
ArcSDE is client/server software for storing, managing and quickly retrieving
spatial data from a database management system. ArcIMS is an end-user software
program capable of establishing a common platform for the exchange of Web-enabled
GIS data and services. It is a framework for distributing GIS capabilities
via the Internet.
—Harreld is a freelance writer based in Cary, N.C.