The past decade or so has seen tremendous technological advances that nearly every industry, government included, have benefited from. Satellite location and global positioning technology has brought a new type of efficiency to government operational procedures.
Geographic information systems technology has become both more widespread and more accessible, meaning that its integration into operations is becoming more ubiquitous. In particular, governments have used this method to great advantage in maintaining city, county and state infrastructure on a broader level than was previously possible.
GIS is so beneficial because it provides government employees with access to a massive volume of information on their given community. Thanks to satellite data, it's now possible to collect complete information on things like road networks, power grid distribution and the spread of essential services like police and fire across a community, in real time.
In the arena of day-to-day government operations, this can provide a tremendous advantage in efficiency, helping public services offer more responsive service in less time for a reduced cost than was previously available.
How GIS is helping governments around the U.S.
Community leaders across the country have begun adopting GIS functionality as part of their essential operations, and many are finding that the boosts to efficiency and service are well worth the investment. In many instances, GIS can play a pivotal role in city and county management throughout all stages of urban and suburban life cycles, from planning and development to maintenance and administration.
GIS software manufacturer Esri highlighted the importance GIS can play to urban and suburban planning, as the data provided by these solutions are essential to zoning things like new residential communities or commercial projects. Whereas previously this data had to be collected by extensive surveying processes, GIS allows governments to maintain an active and accurate real-time database of their zoning districts.
Some communities are leveraging their GIS technology to get a leg up on certain administrative procedures that may have previously been much more personnel- and resource-intensive. For example, American City & County cited Orange County, Florida, which recently invested $8.2 million in updating municipal infrastructure, including a substantial upgrade to the county's GIS capabilities.
One application the source noted that Orange County officials have been ameliorating with the use of GIS is permitting, which in a county as steeped in the tourism trade as Orange County can be an overwhelming task.
Moreover, the ability for GIS-connected software solutions to integrate with mobile technology is further assisting public officials with tasks such as zoning and utility management. For example, the source cited officials who can consult iPads or tablets while in the field that are connected to the county’s GIS database to determine immediately the presence of underground utility infrastructure, water mains or other elements that could affect zoning decisions.
But GIS can affect more than just convenience for governments. In natural disasters, extreme weather or other inclement conditions, this data can help formulate the most efficient response plan.
For example, as Public Works magazine pointed out, GIS data can help city planners identify key pieces of data such as which parts of a city are the most high-traffic, which can alert officials to where potential gaps in service due to weather may be the most disruptive. This is essential data for planning disaster response strategies, or even maintaining a schedule for snow removal in winter.
In addition to real-time data, GIS also allows for officials to create hypothetical models by manipulating data to simulate a given set of circumstances. This means that not only can GIS integration help run day-to-day government operations, but it can also be a potent tool for forecasting, disaster response and future development.