Nearly all government information has a geographic dimension--a street address, a transportation corridor, a river, a city line. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) offer unique opportunities to analyze and compare these disparate types of information, opening up new opportunities to deliver both information and services. The value of GIS and spatial data can be seen most dramatically in applications that promote economic development, public health and safety, and environmental quality. Moreover, these applications share many common information needs.
Experts estimate that up to 80 percent of the cost of GIS is tied to the collection and creation of spatial data. Often, however, data created by one organization can be used by other organizations with similar needs, so sharing can yield considerable efficiencies.
The New York State GIS Cooperative Project, initiated by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), was designed to address some of these issues. The project demonstrated the depth and variety of existing human, technical, and data resources in New York State. It showed the extent to which spatial data needs overlap among key policy and applications areas. It also examined how data sharing strategies can reduce the cost and increase the value of geographic information systems at every level of government and in the private sector. The project identified and examined existing barriers to data sharing and coordination and developed specific recommendations for overcoming those barriers. Finally, the project created a new spatial data resource for New York State, the prototype NYS Spatial Data Clearinghouse.
The prototype GIS metadata clearinghouse, built in 1994-95, demonstrated the first attempt in New York State to build a common repository of information about spatial data and make it accessible over the Internet.
Today, the official New York State GIS Clearinghouse is part of a comprehensive statewide GIS Collaboration program. Available on-line through the NYS Office for Technology Web site, the Clearinghouse provides access to both meta data and many spatial data sets. It also contains comprehensive information about New York's Statewide GIS initiative as well as links to GIS tools, education and training opportunities, and GIS resources of the federal government and other states.
The New York State GIS Cooperative Project demonstrated the depth and variety of existing human, technical, and data resources in New York State. It showed the extent to which spatial data needs overlap among key policy and applications areas and examined how data sharing strategies can reduce the cost and increase the value of geographic information systems at every level of government and in the private sector.
Existing local and regional coordination efforts were identified as were the formal coordination activities of the federal government and other states.
The project identified seven management and policy factors which hinder the sharing of spatial data. These included lack of awareness of existing data sets; inadequate meta data; lack of uniform policies, incentives, tools and guidelines; and an absence of state-level leadership. The project also made specific recommendations for overcoming those barriers.
Finally, the project created a new spatial data resource for New York State, the prototype NYS Spatial Data Clearinghouse.
The information policy, technology, and coordination issues examined in this project are not limited to geographic information systems. They are general, systemic issues that underlie all government operations. The entire information policy framework of state government can be strengthened by the analysis and recommendations that emerged from this project.
The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation initiated this project with several specific questions to be answered. The project provided the agency the following lessons:
The project established the feasibility of an Internet-based repository for sharing spatial data. Given that DEC spent significant time and effort distributing spatial data sets, the investigation of an Internet-based repository as a mechanism for distributing spatial data was a key agency goal. The project allowed DEC to investigate the usability of a clearinghouse as a mechanism for data sharing and to assess how well it encourages data interchange.
DEC increased awareness and improved access to its spatial data resources. DEC's goal for the project was to establish a framework for cooperation within the context of a shared information resource. DEC data has become better known and more readily available for those who want to use spatial data to make decisions.
The project demonstrated how the GIS community can apply concepts like "reduce, reuse, and recycle" to improve data management. DEC used these concepts from the environmental movement to increase the overall level of communication and information sharing among members of the GIS community.
DEC acquired knowledge about Web site construction and on-line search and retrieval tools. As a partner in the design and development of the NYS Spatial Data Clearinghouse, DEC technical staff acquired first-hand experience in new information technology tools for creating Internet sites, authoring World Wide Web documents, and maintaining an Internet-based data resource.
New York State government overall benefited from the project in the following ways:
Members of the public sector GIS community identified barriers and recommended improvements in data sharing and coordination. Project seminars and presentations promoted awareness of programs at the State Library, State Archives and Records Administration, and the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis at the University at Buffalo. Each program increased awareness of existing resources, to enhance coordination and collaboration, and to improve the ability of the participants to provide new and enhanced services.
The prototype NYS Spatial Data Clearinghouse served for a time as a new production-quality information resource for New York State. At the time of its creation, the prototype NYS Spatial Data Clearinghouse was one of only two state clearinghouses to be formally linked to the National Spatial Data Clearinghouse. It not only provided a vehicle for data sharing, but also demonstrated the use of the Internet as an effective tool for government-wide communication.
Members of the public sector GIS community initiated an ongoing user-oriented analysis of the Federal Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Meta Data. Standard meta data provides a common language for describing data that may be of value to many different users. This part of the project involved an analysis of the underlying data model as well as an analysis of the meta data standard itself. A structured process for continued analysis of the standard was developed and continued by project partners in Erie County and the University at Buffalo.
The project heightened awareness of existing coordination efforts and exemplary GIS applications. Through formal presentations, case studies, and regional meetings, the project highlighted a number of exemplary public sector GIS applications in New York and other states.
Several objectives of the NYS Temporary GIS Council were directly addressed. The project demonstrated the value of GIS to decision makers who were assessing the need for a formal coordinating body, and provided an environment for broad public participation.
This project was funded by a portion of CTG's New York State budget allocation plus in-kind contributions of professional services, hardware, software, and communications provided by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, other state and local government agencies, and ten corporate partners.