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Fall 2004
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NSGIC Report Shows States Making Progress on Statewide Coordination Programs

States have rich repositories of spatial data and geographic information technology (GIT). These resources are used not only within and between levels of state government but are also sometimes needed by federal, local, and regional governments and public and private partnerships. Effective sharing of geographic assets across all these entities requires coordination.

While states may vary in their hot issues or have different governing structures, they all coordinate geospatial information. So what factors contribute to successful coordination? To explore this question, the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), an association of state GIS directors, initiated a process to document key factors for successful geospatial coordination. The goal was to construct a model for best practices and to measure each state against the criteria. The work to date has been published in State Model for Coordination of Geographic Information Technology, a report prepared by NSGIC President William Johnson (New York) and Directors Shelby Johnson (Arkansas) and Stuart Davis (Ohio) with additional support from Learon Dalby (Arkansas), Stu Kirkpatrick (Montana), Gilligan Kulp (Ohio), Craig Neidig (West Virginia), and the NSGIC Board.

The process began by identifying a list of nine characteristics for effective, statewide GIT coordination as follows:

  • A full-time paid coordinator has the authority to implement the state's business and strategic plans.
  • A clearly defined authority exists for statewide coordination of GIT and data production.
  • A formal relationship is established with the state's chief information officer or similar officer.
  • A champion (politician or executive decision maker) is aware of and involved in the process of coordination.
  • National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) and state clearinghouse responsibilities are assigned.
  • Capability exists to work and coordinate with local governments, academia, and the private sector.
  • Sustainable funding sources exist to meet projected needs.
  • Coordinators have authority to enter into contracts and become capable of receiving and expending funds.
  • The federal government works through the statewide coordinating authority.

The list was presented to the NSGIC membership at the 2003 midyear conference in Denver, Colorado. After approval by the NSGIC Board, the guidelines were presented to NSGIC members during the state caucus at the annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee. The criteria for the coordination model were approved by the membership.

The next step was to inventory each state regarding the nine coordination characteristics. In late 2003, a Web survey was built with the nine criteria listed as questions (see table). NSGIC state representatives completed the survey, and the responses were compiled in the report. Zsolt Nagy, NSGIC president-elect, notes that the responses provide an overview, with limited validation, but "given the increasing focus on the statewide enterprise and NSDI, the report gives us a timely snapshot of our institutional strengths and needs."

General Observations

A high-level analysis of responses indicates that states are doing much better than originally thought regarding GIT coordination. Twenty-five states met at least seven of the nine criteria. Nine states (Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin) met all the criteria presented in the coordination model. Other states (including Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington) satisfied all but one criterion, and seven of those states identified the lack of sustainable funding as an issue. States meeting all but two of the criteria (Delaware, Idaho, Missouri, Ohio) also cited sustainable funding as an issue.

GIT Coordination Survey Questions
Question No.QuestionsPositive Results
1Has your state designated a full-time, paid coordinator position that has the authority to implement the state's business and strategic plans?29
2Does a clearly defined authority exist for statewide coordination of geospatial information technologies and data production?40
3Does your statewide coordination office have a formal relationship with the state's chief information officer (or similar officer)?37
4Do you have a champion (politician of executive decision maker) who is aware and involved in the process of coordination?35
5Does your state have assigned responsibilities for developing the National Spatial Data Infrastructure and a state clearinghouse?39
6Does your state have mechanisms to work and coordinate with local governments, academia, and the private sector?44
7Does a sustainable funding source exist to meet projected needs?14
8Does your state GIS coordinator have the authority to enter into contracts and receive or expend funds?30
9Does the federal government work through your statewide coordinating authority?41

The Top 25

All 25 states that met seven or more criteria have a defined coordination authority; CIO interaction; and mechanisms for working with local government, academia, and the private sector. Most states in this group responded that their state had an identified champion, contracting authority, and a process for the federal government to coordinate activities through the state's coordinating body. Twenty-three of these states have assigned NSDI responsibilities and 21 have a paid GIS coordinator.

More Positive Observations

Meeting all but three criteria, seven more states (Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia) cited sustainable funding as an issue, but most had a paid coordinator, defined authority, CIO interaction, and varying levels for local and federal interaction.

Of the remaining 18 states (Arkansas, Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Wyoming), all cited sustainable funding as an issue. Only one state in this group had a paid coordinator, but again, many indicated processes for local and federal interaction.


Thirty-two states met at least six of the nine criteria that lead to successful coordination of geospatial technology. The federal government appears to be coordinating through the appropriate statewide coordinating bodies, and there is significant coordination occurring between state and local government, academia, and the private sector.

Sustainable funding emerges as an issue for further research. It is a clear differentiator between the model states and the others. However, while having a full-time coordinator may not be critical in and of itself, when coupled with other success factors, such as contract authority, CIO interaction, and a defined coordinating authority, the success of statewide geospatial coordination is limited.

NSGIC will continue to focus efforts on strengthening coordinating activities across the United States. "We are already seeing the benefits of having measured ourselves against key success factors for statewide coordination," says Nagy. And as the others noted in the report, "Partnering at all levels of government for integrated solutions is critical to our future and provides mechanisms for a more focused expenditure of taxpayers' dollars."

For more details or to read the report, visit

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