GIS experts: Keep it simple

GIS experts: Keep it simple

Three geography experts yesterday urged agencies to strive for simplicity and time-saving strategies in their geographical information systems.

Agencies recognize the need for adopting geographic data standards but still have a lot of work to do, said the Federal Geographic Data Committee’s John Moeller at the E-Gov Conference in Washington.

Roughly 80 percent of government data has some sort of geographic component, Moeller said.

GIS development and use in the United States is similar to most 20th century technology in that it evolved through partnerships among companies, the government and universities, said Brady Foust, geography professor at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire.

For example, after the automobile was invented, the government took on massive road-building efforts. “Neither one of them would have prospered without the other,” Foust said said.

Private-sector software is like the automobile and the Census Bureau’s Topographically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing system the roads, Foust said. TIGER amounted to a national street map, and yet the government gave it away for free, leading to the development of commercial map services on the Web, he said.

“In Europe this information is incredibly expensive,” so online GIS services on that continent haven’t taken off in the same way, Foust said.

“Users value their time a great deal,” said Patrick Anderson, principal of the Anderson Economic Group LLC of Lansing, Mich. “If you don’t value your users’ time, they will stop using your system—if they ever started.”

Anderson encouraged agencies to consider developing simple interactive maps based on the Extensible Markup Language. With an XML version called Scalable Vector Graphics, agencies can create pop-up maps that users can adjust without repeated calls to the server, he said.

About the Author

Connect with the GCN staff on Twitter @GCNtech.

Featured

  • Cybersecurity
    Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lora Ratliff)

    Mayorkas announces cyber 'sprints' on ransomware, ICS, workforce

    The Homeland Security secretary announced a series of focused efforts to address issues around ransomware, critical infrastructure and the agency's workforce that will all be launched in the coming weeks.

  • IT Modernization
    Blue Signage and logo of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

    VA plans 'strategic review' of $16B software program

    New Veterans Affairs chief Denis McDonough announced a "strategic review" of the agency's Electronic Health Record Modernization program of up to 12 weeks.

Stay Connected