GIS more prevalent in big cities, counties
Larger cities and counties are more likely than their smaller counterparts to have geographical information systems (GIS), and the overwhelming majority of local governments that use the technology believe its benefits justify its often considerable costs. Those are two of the major findings of a wide-ranging survey of GIS use among cities and counties by Washington, D.C.-based Public Technology Inc. (PTI). The survey, in which more than 1,000 local governments participated, also details the ways that cities and counties are using the technology, the obstacles to implementing GIS and various funding issues.
More than 97 percent of the respondents with populations of at least 100,000 residents use GIS, and 88 percent of those surveyed with populations between 50,000 and 100,000 residents have the technology. Among respondents with less than 50,000 residents, the percentage of those that use GIS drops to 56 percent. Overall, more than 66 percent of those surveyed use GIS. However, Brian Anderson, a spokesperson for PTI, notes that cities and counties that have GIS were more likely to participate in the survey, and he estimates that only 30 percent of local governments nationwide are using the technology.
The survey demonstrates that local governments that use GIS tend to be pleased by its performance. Eighty-six percent of the respondents that use GIS said its benefits justified its cost.
The survey also provides examples of the technology’s wide array of applications. For example, 77 percent of the respondents that have GIS use the technology to view aerial photography; 70 percent use it to support property records management and taxation services; and 57 percent use it to provide information to the public. Other applications mentioned in the survey include support for capital planning, design and construction; for permitting services; and for emergency preparedness and response.
Despite the general satisfaction with GIS, there are some significant barriers to its more widespread use, according to the survey. More than 64 percent of the respondents indicated interest in implementing or expanding their use of GIS but said they lack the necessary funding to move forward. Meanwhile, more than 42 percent said they lack the technical expertise to proceed. To reduce the expense of GIS, many local governments turn to cooperative purchasing programs; according to the survey, 73 percent of the respondents that use the technology participate in intergovernmental cooperative GIS programs.
The survey also reveals a high degree of willingness by local governments to share GIS data with the federal government for various purposes. For example, 98 percent of the survey respondents said they would share their GIS data with the federal government for homeland security, and 97 percent said they would share their data for floodplain mapping.
The survey was developed with input from the International City/County Management Association, the National Association of Counties and the National League of Cities, all of which are based in Washington, D.C. The study was conducted last summer as part of a federal initiative to improve the ability of all levels of government in the U.S. to access geospatial information.
IS GIS WORTH THE MONEY?
|Local governments by size:||Respondents that say GIS provides return on investment|
|100,000 residents or more||90 percent|
|50,000-99,999 residents||89 percent|
|less than 50,000 residents||84 percent|
|Source: Public Technology Inc., “2003 Survey on the Use of GIS Technology in Local Governments,” December 2003.|