Driving change through GIS
The technology we use today, both in our work and personal lives, has become interchangeable. The smartphone that is available through any retailer today is as capable, or more capable, than what most people need for work. The computer that I used at my desk, just a few years ago, is less capable than the phone that I carry at my hip. One might say that we are holding onto an overabundance of computing potential in our very hand. Add to this the throughput broadband and 4G wireless networks allow. One only has to watch the news to see how citizens are reacting to this abundance of connectivity. Information about your family, friends, and business acquaintances is at your fingertips. So is information about your bank accounts, credit cards, hotel reservations, or a sale at your favorite store. But government is a different animal—it is cautious and slow to change. And it is this change that occupies the thoughts of many public leaders. Just as we’re growing to expect more information and answers at our fingertips, citizens’ expectations of government are also growing.
The need to meet these growing expectations couldn’t come at a more difficult time. For government, it’s the perfect storm: increased expectations for transparency, severe budget pressure, and rapidly evolving technology patterns.
But I would propose that these three difficulties provide a transformative opportunity for government officials, and IT leaders in particular. This perfect storm is driving innovation in state and local government. And it’s GIS that is providing a critical inflection point that allows governments to transform and thrive in this new environment, changing the very way government works. Maryland’s StateStat effort is an obvious example, but look at the states of Utah and Colorado and how they reoriented their websites to be place-centric. The City of Charlotte, North Carolina, Bexar County, Texas, and many others provide map and app galleries that direct citizens to services and data.
This new era of cloud and mobile computing has led to a new approach of delivering solutions. The truly interesting part of all this is that we are seeing state and local government GIS practitioners exploit these computing strategies and evolve GIS as a platform. In short, they’ve become change agents. And the changes they are leading are steering the way for their governments to an extent never before considered.