North Dakota Brings People and Data Together
Sharing Data Via the Web
The Web portion of the GIS Hub consists of three main components: the Hub Explorer, feature services, and the Metadata Explorer. The Web infrastructure of the GIS Hub is flexible enough to host a variety of applications developed by ITD, agencies, and third party contractors. For example, the Department of Commerce worked with a local engineering firm in Bismarck to develop an application that is used for attracting new businesses to North Dakota.
The Hub Explorer was designed by GISTC and developed by ITD personnel. Using the ArcIMS HTML viewer, the Hub Explorer applies a standard template to all ArcIMS image services and provides a way for other agencies to develop their own maps that can be used by North Dakota citizens. For example, the Web sites of the State Legislative Council and the Secretary of State have links to the Legislative District map of the Hub Explorer. This map, heavily used on Election Day, received nearly 2,100 hits despite the fact that the site was not advertised. Recently, the Game and Fish Department worked with ITD to develop a Hub Explorer map that depicts fish stocking areas, boat ramps, and other hunting and fishing information. This map uses data from the State Water Commission and from the Department of Transportation.
In addition to the image services used by the Hub Explorer, nearly all of the data on the GIS Hub database is available as ArcIMS feature services. This is a powerful method that allows people inside and outside of the state firewall to access the data via ArcGIS or ArcExplorer and customize the symbology. Within ArcMap, data available as a feature service can be downloaded locally.
The Metadata Explorer is used to discover and display data. Prior to implementing the GIS Hub, little metadata existed. Now that metadata has been developed, the Metadata Explorer can be used to search for data available as image services or as feature services. In the near future, it will allow data to be downloaded. The Metadata Explorer is even a more powerful tool when used within ArcMap. Once data is located, it can be added directly to ArcMap.
Although much work remains, the North Dakota GIS Hub development has been a success. Appropriations from the state legislature were critical for the development of the North Dakota GIS Hub, and additional funding from FEMA greatly assisted development of the project. Agencies determined needs and drove the GIS Hub's design rather than having a single entity determine needs, set up the system, and wait for agencies to become customers. GISTC agencies worked together toward common goals. North Dakota was awarded the 2002 Esri Special Achievement in GIS award in recognition of the agencies' teamwork.
The Information Technology Department provided an existing hardware and software system, purchased additional hardware and software, and had people with a "can-do" attitude make the North Dakota GIS Hub happen. Since familiarity with ArcSDE and ArcIMS was critical, hands-on learning coupled with formal classroom training and basic computer skills were necessary to develop the infrastructure.
Hiring a state GIS coordinator was critical to the GIS Hub's success and its quick transition from the planning stages to final production. Because the requirements for developing an enterprise GIS using relatively new tools such as ArcSDE and ArcIMS were not known at the start of the project, it was necessary to bring in outside assistance.
The official unveiling of the North Dakota GIS Hub to all levels of state government and the public occurred on GIS Day 2002 (November 20, 2002) in North Dakota. The GIS Hub is now generating interest from many agencies that wish to improve the delivery of data and information to the public but cannot due to limited funds or staff. With the GIS Hub, these agencies can now distribute GIS data and maps utilizing this infrastructure.
It is important to note that the GIS Hub does not replace people within agencies but allows those GIS professionals to spend their time more productively. Before the advent of the GIS Hub, GIS use was restricted to GIS professionals within agencies. Now people at all GIS skill levels within agencies can access GIS data using simple tools such as Hub Explorer and ArcExplorer.
For the first time, data that was previously seen by only a small number of individuals is available to people in different state agencies. Reuse of data previously stored within one agency will significantly offset the initial cost of acquiring the data. Digital raster graphic files have already been stitched together into statewide mosaics. Work is currently underway to mosaic nearly 6,000 digital orthophotos into one state-wide coverage. Government land office surveys, which have existed only as paper maps, are being scanned, rectified, and stored within the GIS Hub database.
In the future, the GIS Hub will leverage the current investment and become a standard tool in North Dakota state government. There will likely be GIS Hub maps containing information such as sales tax rates, crime statistics, polling locations, jobs, and business locations. GIS Hub maps will also contain address matching and data extraction tools that are currently under development. The next major challenge for the GIS Hub will be obtaining continued funding from the state legislature for the 2003-2005 biennium that will allow state agencies to use what is now in place to provide better service to the people of North Dakota.
For more information, please contact
Bob Nutsch, GIS Coordinator
Information Technology Department
State of North Dakota
600 East Boulevard Avenue
Bismarck, North Dakota 58554