GIS in the Trenches – Local Government Case Studies

One of the sessions I attended at Esri’s User Conference was New Enterprise GIS: Lessons Learned from the Trenches. This session featured the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia, Dunwoody, Georgia and Columbus, Ohio, highlighting how they have implemented ArcGIS Server-based enterprise GIS. The three case studies were fascinating, as they consider the journey from a desktop environment to a fully distributed GIS model.

The City of Columbus and their application of GIS was a really interesting to consider during the presentation. Columbus is the largest city in Ohio and has roughly 8,000 employees in the metro area. Parsons stated that the city has about 23 departments, and most of them are using GIS in some capacity.

The City of Columbus upgraded their GIS infrastructure in 2012. Robert Parsons, City of Columbus, noted that one of the challenges while upgrading system was to do so without interfering with any key systems and applications that rely on GIS.

One of the challenges that Columbus has faced is moving from desktop to mobile.”We have to support new technologies, this was launched back in 2011 for iPhone and Android device, so our data infrastructure needed to support our this new onslaught of new devices, but at the same time needed to support our legacy applications,” states Parsons.

In addition to the challenge of mobile adoption, the City of Columbus also has to integrate data from surrounding counties. In some cases, services extend beyond the City of Columbus boundary lines. This called for closer integration with surrounding counties.Parsons noted that Esri Technology provided the City of Columbus the ability integrate and interchange datatypes for the various needs of city departments. In Esri’s agenda description, Parsons notes:

“The Multi-Geodatabase functionality on the Oracle RDBMS keeps the transactional data for each department separate and easier to manage for our DBA’s. ArcGIS replication gave us the ability to refresh our read-only repository much more frequently than we were able to in the past. From ST_ GEOMETRY to SDO_GEOMETRY, from PLSQL to Python we have succeeded in solving the problem of integrating our systems and keeping the data up to date. This would be useful for anyone who is contemplating a system upgrade and are hesitant because of disparate application requirements.”

The other two speakers included:

  • Leveraging ArcGIS Server Technology – A Local Government Enterprise Approach
  • Virginia Johnston, City of Virginia Beach Department of Communications and Information Technology Center for Geospatial

All three sessions were interesting case studies on GIS technology. Some of the overarching lessons learned for me from this session were:

  • Importance of exploring GIS license agreements for local government
  • How small GIS departments can be, and the amount of work they support
  • GIS continues to extend beyond users
  • It’s very hard to think of data in local government that is not geolocated, incredible amount of applications of GIS technology

Check out the GIS resources available on GovLoop:

Esri was founded in 1969, it realized even then that geographic information system (GIS) technology could make a difference in society. GIS helps people to solve problems at local, regional, national, and global scales. Access maps and apps at ArcGIS.com. Be sure to check out all the
 GIS resources produced by Esri and GovLoop.

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