by Dave Cook
National GIS Day is celebrated on November 17th, which is the week before Thanksgiving. When asked “what are you thankful for this year” while passing the pumpkin pie, I’m guessing most of you won’t be responding with “Connecticut House Bill 6647”. But as Fuss & O’Neill’s Senior GIS Analyst, the movement of this bill, titled “An Act Concerning Geographic Information Systems,” which has been passed in the House, is something that I’m very thankful for.
The foundation that this bill establishes solidifies collaboration across state, municipal, and private sectors within Connecticut. This step forward will increase the state’s Geospatial Maturity Assessment Coordination Rating and will bring benefits to Connecticut residents. The Geospatial Maturity Assessment Coordination Rating is given by the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) every two years to “document and gauge state’s geospatial data coordination, development and practices, helping to build their State Spatial Data Infrastructures (SSDI) framework data themes that contribute toward a robust National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI).” So what exactly does that mean? In the simplest of terms: more data = more informed decision making.
Connecticut, despite being a very progressive state in most regards, is a little behind in geospatial data collection. Many of our neighboring states have adopted and embraced GIS technology. VTrans incorporates GIS analytics to prepare for weather (https://www.esri.com/en-us/lg/industry/transportation/vermont-builds-resilience-into-infrastructure-plans), RIDOT collaborates with ArcGIS Online to manage and understand its Stormwater Program (https://www.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=b516ed62a55847e28d0243ac07206856), and Massachusetts is working towards better informing first responders with the deployment NextGen 911 (https://www.mass.gov/service-details/massgis-and-nextgen-911).
Enacting this bill will help Connecticut formalize and organize their GIS methodology, practices, and goals. Putting these practices to work will help the state understand its geography and the needs of its citizens. The data gathered will inform decision making for transportation, environmental, public health (a member of the Department of Public Health will be an advisory board member), and societal improvements. If you would like to learn more about how GIS helps with decision making, click here.
While the bill’s progress so far is exciting and encouraging, there is still a way to go. It still has to pass through the state senate. However, things continue to move forward. Here is a quick look at where we are and what is on the horizon:
- Positions are currently being filled for the Geographic Information Officer (GIO) within the Office of Policy and Management (OPM), with positions to be filled by December 2021.
- Initial efforts will focus on broadband mapping, statewide parcels, town boundaries, basemapping acquisitions, data standards, open data clearinghouse.
- A GIS Advisory Council will be appointed by the end of 2021.
- In March of 2022, the GIS Advisor Council will convene with the broadband mapping and ARPA project planning underway.
I’m obviously a little biased here, as my job is to work with these maps and help our technical teams make smart and cost-effective decisions that lead to the implementation of smart designs (for an example, read how we developed customized solutions for the CTDOT here). You don’t need to take my word about how important of a step this bill could be for the state of Connecticut. Emily Wilson of UConn and Eric Lindquist of the OPM have created a wonderful StoryMap that explains the history, importance, and future of a statewide GIS center in Connecticut – and their message is not unique to Connecticut. The future benefits to improved GIS utilization are universal. I hope you will visit their site. If you are a Connecticut resident, I also hope that you will encourage the passing of this important bill. If you live outside of Connecticut, I hope you will encourage and/or support your state’s GIS activities.
About the Author
Dave Cook is Fuss & O’Neill’s Senior Computer ǀ GIS Analysist. He has been instrumental in bringing technological growth to Fuss & O’Neill and works with all departments to create applications, dashboards, maps, storyboards, and data collection tools.