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GIS in State and Local Government

The local government handles weather emergencies.

State and local governments use geographic information system (GIS) technology in a variety of innovative ways. Discover some of the unique government applications for GIS technology and what the future holds for GIS in the government sector.

GIS Technology Improving Weather Response and Recovery

There were 15 weather and climate events in the United States costing more than $1 billion in 2016, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information. The United States hasn’t seen so many billion-dollar weather disasters since 2011. As climate change drives more expensive weather problems, GIS technology can help governments minimize damage bills.

In Iowa, all Department of Transportation maintenance vehicles have advanced vehicle location systems, notes GCN. Data collected from these vehicles is processed quickly for the state’s Winter Cost Calculator. This app displays the amount spent on material, labor, and equipment for winter road maintenance over the past 48 hours. Color-coded roads indicate where resource spending is above, below, and equivalent to Iowa’s average. Further data shows how money was spent in each roadway segment.

The app tells taxpayers how their contributions are spent and helps them plan the safest travel routes within the state. GNC notes that the location analytics driving the app also help the Iowa Department of Transportation improve its storm response efforts.

Similarly, the District of Columbia lets its residents learn more about local snow-clearing efforts through its snow map, according to GovernmentTechnology. Users simply enter an address and date range to learn about recent snowplow activity. The application also shows recent road camera photos, giving motorists insight into driving conditions so they can plan the best route.

GIS Technology Helping Governments Fight War on Opioids

Seventy-eight Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, according to “Using GIS to Tackle the Opioid Crisis,” a white paper released by Esri. The company’s ArcGIS platform has helped the National City-County Task Force on the Opioid Epidemic, a joint effort by the National Association of Counties and National League of Cities, fight the war on these drugs.

The cause is one that Jeremiah Lindemann, a solutions engineer at Esri, takes seriously after his brother succumbed to an opioid addiction.

“I’ve been doing personal advocacy on the opioid epidemic and have found my voice via map,” he told StateTech. “It’s been great to see a lot of what I do making its way into governments because I really think that a community-based approach is really what’s going to help tackle this problem.” His work shows the way a GIS degree or GIS certificate can help graduates pursue their passions and make a real difference in their communities.

Esri’s work is instrumental in helping Northern Kentucky wage its war on opioids. StateTech reported an opioid overdose claimed one life every 40 hours within the region in 2015. The Northern Kentucky Health Department’s Heroin Impact Response Team launched a story map, using Esri’s technology, in October 2016 to reduce these drug-related deaths. Biannual updates will keep its data current.

The story map incorporates multiple sources of data from the last five years relevant to three key areas: the epidemic, its impact, and how the community can prevent further impact. Mortality rates, police incident reports, hospitalization and overdose revival statistics, and details of prescription drop boxes and treatment facilities are all mapped.

The map informs government departments about overdose trends and locations where they should increase police and emergency medical services resources. The state’s heroin response task force also plans to use the map to create strategies for tackling the opioid epidemic in the coming years. Citizens affected by the epidemic can also use the map to learn where to get help, access the overdose revival drug Naloxone, and safely drop off prescription drugs. Lindemann hopes the story map will also inspire community outreach efforts.

Arizona’s Department of Health Services utilized Esri’s technology in a series of static and interactive maps charting the impact of opioid addiction. These maps divide the state into unique primary care areas rather than using traditional city or county lines. Users can learn how their primary care area compares to the state average for various drug-related mortalities.

“We created maps as tools for citizens and providers,” Wesley Kortuem, a senior GIS analyst at the Arizona Department of Health Services explained in the Esri paper. “You can quickly go through and look at your community and get an idea of how they’re doing. If they’ve got a lot of red indicators, you know that there’s a lot of progress to make.”

Companion video tutorials further explain data points and how to understand them.

The Arizona Department of Health Services recently added new prescription drug drop-off location maps to its interactive portal. Through these maps, the department hopes citizens will safely dispose of opioids, rather than leaving them at home where they’re more likely to be abused.

GIS Technology Helps Business Community Grow

“Small-scale, locally owned businesses create communities that are more prosperous, entrepreneurial, connected, and generally better off across a wide range of metrics,” explained Stacy Mitchell, the co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. With local businesses playing such a vital part in community development, local governments, including the City of Rancho Cucamonga in California, are harnessing the power of GIS technology to assist local firms. The Rancho Cucamonga government commissioned a map dubbed INsideRancho to boost local economic development efforts.

The map lets business users browse available land and commercial buildings for sale or lease. Customized search options let users specify their desired square footage, zoning, and building type, making finding the ideal space even easier. Users can also create demographic reports, detailing features such as consumer expenditure and employment wages, and business competition and synergy reports, detailing potential competitors and allies, to gain greater insight into locations they’re interested in. An embedded Google Street View connection lets users view property exteriors and browse local businesses by name or address.

If you’re excited by GIS technology, learn how a Geographic Information Science and Technology Graduate degree from the University of Southern California might be a good choice for you.