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GovLoop Training: Mapping for Policy Makers

As a lifetime member of Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.®, I have earned my fair share of compass merit badges. Despite my badge-certified sense of direction, I still have trouble locating some places when doing a simple Internet search, especially after I have moved to a new city. With ArcGIS, mapping data in an organized, clear manner is more than possible.

During Tuesday’s GovLoop Training, Mapping for Policy Makers, we spoke with the following panel of Esri ArcGIS experts:

  • Pat Cummens—Director of Government Policy Strategy, Esri
  • Bonnie Stayer—Solution Engineer, Esri
  • Cathy Cahill—Congressional Fellow, U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

For those individuals out there who are not familiar with ArcGIS, it is a platform created by Esri that allows users to design and manage visual solutions and maps via the use of geographic information. ArcGIS Online’s default setting is for your content to only be accessible by you. But, depending on the security requirements of your organization, ArcGIS gives you the option of sharing information with the groups you belong to, your agency, or even the public.

ArcGIS has become more and more prevalent in work on Capitol Hill. It is used by our policy makers to help constituents understand important issues pertaining to their cities and states by presenting reliable, authoritative data in an easily understandable way. All of Capitol Hill has access to GIS software, including the Library of Congress, the Architect of the Capitol, the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives.

“There are several people that are GIS users on Capitol Hill,” Cummens said. “The Library of Congress uses it for congressional research, and the Architect of the Capitol uses GIS to manage buildings.”

Cummens further explained that the Architect of the Capitol is responsible to Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court for facilities management, which includes 17.4 million square feet of buildings.

In regards to ArcGIS Online for Congress, it is used to create focused demographic maps. Additionally, GIS is used for branding and design for each chamber. ArcGIS Online is also useful for connecting Member offices to state GIS offices through private groups.

“Each member gives their members individual access and then some of this information can be shared,” Cummens said.

When identifying the main users of GIS, it is important to look at four major workflows from Capitol Hill staff: 1) Communications; 2) Committees; 3) Legislative Staff; and 4) System Administrators (Digital Media).

Capitol Hill staff can embed maps or galleries on websites, in press releases, and share them through social media. Committees use GIS to locate assets and resources across the nation to see how they intersect with proposed policy and with committee member’s states and districts. As for Legislative Staff, GIS can tell workers where a Member has been in their district or state and where constituent mail may be arriving from. GIS is incredibly helpful at pin pointing important current issues specific to different locations.

ArcGIS is also helpful for informing Senate decisions. The data required for GIS products are from different curated, trusted sources, and the software allows users to easily create maps from original information. GIS enables users to easily synthesize and analyze this information and present it to both technical and non-technical people.

Stayer listed multiple examples of Congress Members utilizing the software to address some of their major platform issues. “Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon mapped Medicare beneficiaries along with individuals who have chronic conditions. This was a great way to show trends in the data and how different care is needed in different areas,” Stayer stated.

“Wyden also has maps on wildfire data, and this shows historical and current data,” Stayer continued. “This is incredibly important for people living on the West Coast, where wildfires are very prevalent.”

Cahill added examples of energy maps used by Senator Murkowski of Alaska. When looking for areas suitable for wind energy, the Senator’s office created maps that identified prime locations as well as areas where endangered specifies lived. Although some areas were great for turbine and windmill use, they were inhabited by differing endangered species that needed protection.

ArcGIS allows users to have original analysis and provides senators with the best authoritative and reputable info possible in a clear and organized manner. It enables congressional staff members to make informed decisions in line with their constituents wants and needs.

Following their discussion, the panel answered questions asked by webinar participants. One member asked how to get more involved with GIS and GIS-related work.

“Depending on what happens in November, there might be a lot of turn over,” said Cahill. “It might be a prime time for sending in resumes and getting involved with a GIS career.”

For more on mapping with ArcGIS for policy makers, click here.


Image courtesy of: Esri



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