GIS: An inevitable evolution

Bruce Friefeld, an executive special assistant for Will County, Ill., believes

geographic information systems provides such a potential return for local

governments that most information technology investments will be passed

through the filter of GIS in one way or another.

"It will eventually be such a dominant player," he said. "Now everyone

is used to what they can get out of IT, but that tends to generate a lot

of paper. Once GIS is enterprisewide and people can see the data presented

on their computer screens in front of them in the way only GIS can, then

we'll see everything funneled into GIS."

Will County is one of the fastest growing counties in Illinois, and

its officials want to build an enterprise GIS that eventually will include

data users and producers in all of the county's 24 townships and 35 municipalities,

as well as its government departments.

James Dodge, a representative for Chicago-based IT consultant SD.I,

which is helping to build the enterprise GIS, is not quite so enthusiastic.

He believes government will always have to be cognizant of what other investments

have already been made in IT and what is needed to maintain those.

"However, I do think GIS will lead future IT investments," he said.

"GIS is clearly one of the most productive and useful technologies that

can be applied enterprisewide, but the question is what the correct rate

of evolution of that should be."

It comes down to what it will take to overcome culture barriers, according

to Friefeld. The county's executives seem to be sold on the idea of GIS,

he said, but for them it's a matter of financial realities and what it will

take to pay for it.

Those who have supported "traditional" IT in the past are excited about

the possibilities of GIS, Friefeld said, "but they need an adjustment in

their views" of what constitutes IT.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached

at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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