GIS in Local and Regional Government

By Bob Parrott, Deputy Executive Director, San Diego Association of Governments

Bob ParrottThe foundations have been established from both the technology and institutional perspectives to foster significant changes and enhancements to the use of GIS by regional and local agencies in the next 10 years.

Regional and local agency staff members and the public will access mapping and spatial analysis functions through Web-based applications over the Internet or each agency's Intranet. Widespread use of the Web by local agencies will provide governmental services and direct access to public records 24 hours a day. GIS functions, built into many of these applications, will make them easier to use. Advancements will allow Web-based GIS applications to be developed through easy-to-use graphic interfaces with drop and drag features. These Web-based applications will require little programming skills and be based more on a person's understanding of the actual functions, capabilities, and the process needed for the application.

Regional agencies' Web sites will have applications that allow the public to interactively evaluate the consequences and impacts of different growth management strategies and land use and infrastructure decision making on their quality of life. GIS, including more use of three-dimensional perspectives integrated with complex real-time modeling, will allow better visualization of alternative growth scenarios.

Increased bandwidths will allow applications to access data no matter where it is located, allowing local agencies to easily share the most up-to-date data available. Smart applications will make the use of data independent of its coordinate system and its format. Standards established and followed since the late 1990s will allow regional agencies to build databases from the "bottom up" rather than the "top-down" approach that had been used previously.

There will be widespread use of digital imagery, both high-resolution (sub-one-meter) satellite imagery and aerial photography, in a wider variety of local and regional agency GIS applications. Satellite imagery, with a high degree of rectification, will be available almost immediately after being captured. Automated easy-to-use geocoding, image-to-image rectification, and tools used to mosaic images will shorten the delivery time and allow local agencies to make greater use of inexpensive aerial photography.

Data and application development partnerships and consortiums made up of all levels of government (federal, state, regional and local), private agencies, and academic institutions will develop more complex databases for larger geographic areas, eliminating duplication in building spatial databases, while serving the diverse missions of each agency. Local agencies will play a major role in developing these partnerships and consortiums and in the development of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI).

Over the next 10 years, easy-to-use Web-based applications, accessing more comprehensive and more up-to-date spatial data, will continue to expand the use of GIS to new application areas within local and regional government. The ability to easily and quickly analyze and visualize alternative solutions through the use of GIS functions by non-GIS professionals and the public will lead to better decision making by local and regional agencies.

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