GIS office unfolds marketing plan

Mapping experts in New Jersey are looking for a few good stories that convey the value of the work they do.

They want examples of how geographic information systems have helped an agency save money, shape public policy or other otherwise have an impact that can be easily understood by people unfamiliar with the technology.

The Office of Geographic Information Systems, part of New Jersey's Office of Information Technology, plans to use the stories in a brochure to go to the state's lawmakers, policymakers and department officials.

The GIS office has only been around for two years, so it's still new to people, said Kate McGuire, who coordinates public outreach services for the office. "We just want to let people know what we are trying to do and how they can become involved in it and how GIS can help their agencies work better and provide better services," she said.

For instance, North Carolina's Department of Public Instruction used GIS to create new routes for the buses serving the state's 100-plus school districts. The technology helped the department find a way to reduce the number of buses and the overall miles that buses traveled. That translated into big savings on fuel.

Such a case "explains how GIS can help them solve their problems and make their decisions, and do it with a streamlined decision-making process," McGuire said. "And it will also explain how GIS works."

The outreach won't stop there. The GIS office is working on a Web site to promote GIS; the site should be easier to develop, because it can incorporate more images. GIS "is such a visual technology, it's hard to explain in words," McGuire said. "You almost have to show them, and in a brochure that's hard to do."

The GIS experts also are thinking of demonstrating their wares at the statehouse, to show legislators how the technology works, McGuire said.

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