Nebraska's ArcGIS Hub Site Bridges Gap between Citizens, Government
The Nebraska Office of the CIO (OCIO) provides a wide range of technology services to state agencies, boards, and commissions. One of the OCIO team's objectives is to provide innovative technology solutions that increase transparency and enhance collaboration. Recently staff developed a new version of NebraskaMAP, an ArcGIS Hub open data site that allows individual state agencies to share information with each other and the public on a range of issues including health, farming, transportation, and the environment.
The searchable, user-friendly site provides access to shared geographic information system (GIS) data and public web-mapping applications developed by state agencies. John Watermolen, state GIS coordinator for the Nebraska Office of the CIO, says his goal is to create "a sustainable, efficient, and functioning GIS ecosystem that provides a clearinghouse for quality Nebraska data," and NebraskaMAP helps provide this to users in one centralized location.
To support the launch of the newest version of NebraskaMAP, the OCIO employed software that facilitates data sharing and connects government and citizens around important issues.
Before launching the latest release—version 3—of NebraskaMAP, the OCIO faced several significant challenges. In the previous version, the GIS team struggled with the ongoing addition of new data. The software that had been used to build version 2 made it so that any data from contributing state agencies had to be manually uploaded—resulting in difficulties keeping information up-to-date. The upload process was tedious, and pushing data into the software environment required a number of steps.
ArcGIS Hub site apps keep residents informed
The Nebraska Office of the CIO has introduced apps using ArcGIS Hub to keep the state's residents informed about new and ongoing infrastructure construction projects as well as issues in the community. A recent example is a story map, created by the Nebraska Department of Transportation, on the construction of the Lincoln South Beltway. Hosted on the ArcGIS Hub site, the story map gives the public details on the new, 11-mile east–west freeway south of the city of Lincoln and provides updates on the different phases of construction.
Another story map introduced via ArcGIS Hub is from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. The story map is about teen driver safety and the state programs geared toward education and the prevention of accidents. The story map's dashboard offers data on auto accidents involving teens, allowing a user to filter details based on factors such as whether there were fatalities, distracted driving was involved, or a particular school has a peer-to-peer traffic safety education program. Overall, the apps continue to offer a vital way to communicate information and engage the community.
Watermolen says, "No one really understood the process or had the time to publish the data, so no one really contributed [to the site] and a lot of the data ended up being stale. You really couldn't determine if it was current or not."
The OCIO sought a technology solution not only to streamline the process of uploading information and keeping it current but also to increase collaboration among state agencies.
The OCIO selected ArcGIS Hub to launch the new version of NebraskaMAP. Watermolen and the GIS team were familiar with the product and knew that it had the features needed to integrate data and streamline operations. ArcGIS Hub provides a two-way engagement platform designed to connect governments and communities around policy initiatives to tackle pressing issues and share data, thereby increasing transparency.
The new primary geodatabase under OCIO is read-only and offers several views of data from state agency databases. Geodatabases provide a way to store and manage geographic information in ArcGIS Online, a complete cloud-based mapping and analysis software solution. This data is then published and available to be viewed on the open data site. Information is organized on the website in 18 different categories and has a simple toolbar for quick searching.
State agencies now operate under one umbrella using ArcGIS Enterprise, a software product used to design maps and apps, manage data, conduct analysis, and share work. In the past, state agencies each had individual licenses for ArcGIS Enterprise and were working independently, making it difficult to share information.
The new ArcGIS Hub site serves as a shared resource and enables easier management of information. All ArcGIS Enterprise server licenses have been consolidated and exist within the OCIO, basically facilitating the creation of the office's own ecosystem.
"The recent refresh of NebraskaMAP creates the opportunity for state agencies to share timely geographic data with taxpayers and our government stakeholders," says Ed Toner, chief information officer for the State of Nebraska. "It functions to automatically integrate the data from different agencies so that the information is authoritative and more consistent than what other sources can provide."
Stakeholders have seen a number of benefits since the implementation of ArcGIS Hub, with traffic to the site averaging more than 200 hits per day. ArcGIS Hub has enabled participating state agencies to contribute their own data, using their own geodatabases.
According to Watermolen, this gives agencies improved control over their data, allowing them to do things like edit the data change schemas, or determine privacy settings. Any changes are automatically pushed to the main enterprise geodatabase, helping to ensure that all data published is the most current the agency has.
He adds that having data on one site has eliminated duplicate requests being made to agencies. Data from multiple sources is accessible in one place, simplifying the user experience. For example, instead of asking several different agencies for information, users can now view data in one place. This gives the public a one-stop shop.
"It's one place that the public can come to get accurate data and help [so that they can] be better informed, make better decisions, and have the best data available for any of their projects," says Watermolen.
The Nebraska Office of the CIO retired two virtual servers after the adoption of ArcGIS Hub, translating to a financial savings of $1,700 a year for the agency. In addition, staff members don't need to spend time updating data on the open data site because it's done automatically, allowing them to focus on other priority projects.
Additionally, ArcGIS Hub aided OCIO in its IT consolidation, putting all state agencies on the same platform and all servers in the state data center. Having one central place for data increases the efficiency of operations and makes it easier to manage data.
Now Nebraska state government leaders are looking to expand the use of ArcGIS Hub. "The ability to input tabular data and add documents has caught the eye of our CIO," says Watermolen. "If different agencies participate in this manner, we can make this more of a true open data portal and not just a GIS-related one."
Watermolen adds, "We can build dashboards right into NebraskaMAP to show how the data is being used. Our CIO likes the idea of the data coming alive."
ArcGIS Hub has helped us make data more transparent. It has made it easier for state agencies to share and collaborate, and for the public to find good quality data. We want to instill confidence that we are being good stewards of taxpayer resources."