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How GIS Shaped the Public Sector in 2012

Throughout the month of December, GovLoop has been reviewing the year in government technology – everything from BYOD to social media, I’ve been working to highlight some case studies, best practices and try and condense the year down into one post, while looking forward to the year 2013. Follow along here by viewing GovLoop’s Year in Review Guide, our related blog series, and podcasts.

View the Guide Above Or Click Download Now.

As always, I’d encourage you to join in the conversation, feel free to shoot me an email at [email protected] if something stood out to you this year, or write up and share your thoughts here on GovLoop. In this post, we’ll be looking at the impact of GIS in 2012, share GovLoop GIS resources, and identify some great case studies.

To start out, here is a quick overview of some of the amazing things you can do with GIS. Esri breaks GIS out into 6 categories. Map where things are, map quantities, map densities, find what’s inside, find what’s nearby and map change.

As government agencies are challenged to do more with less, and find innovative solutions to complex problems, GIS helps provide some clarity to decision makers. GIS can help show patterns, identify under served populations, economic impacts of policies, environmental concerns and a whole host of other policy related decisions.

This year there were some interesting developments for GIS, especially with integration of cloud and mobile. The connection and integration between these technology produces an incredible tool for decision makers. Recently, GovLoop highlighted some of these challenges with our guide on GIS and our infographic.

The guide, Identifying the Promise of GIS for Government, runs through a handful of case studies and ways GIS has been used in the public sector. The infographic creates a fictitious city, “Anytown USA,” and provides case studies for GIS implication, so take a look at both to learn more about GIS. To further show how GIS has impacted the public sector in 2012, I highlighted 3 sectors and case studies for GIS.


In a guest post by Charlie Fitzpatrick on the Esri blog, Charlie talks about the importance of geoliteracy. His post shows the importance of teaching geography, in a modernized more strategic way. Charlie is by no means alone, in a recent article in the Economist, A Sense of Place, the article states that geography in the digital economy has taken on a new meaning, and is more important than ever before.

I really like Charlie’s quote from the Esri blog, check it out:

“Geoliteracy helps people to navigate through life and to cope with overlapping and often competing information and values, at scales from micro to cosmic. It means being able to describe for new situations “what’s where,” postulate “why it’s there,” and being interested enough to wonder and skilled enough to resolve “so what.” Geoliteracy fosters skills in managing disparate information about complex problems. And this is exactly what employers are seeking today—workers accustomed to thinking critically, learning insatiably, collaborating naturally, and using technology to analyze and integrate more efficiently and powerfully. Geoliteracy opens doors to a better future for individuals, communities, and the planet.”

Yet, beyond how we teach children about geography, GIS is important to visually show the impact of education policy, identify underserved areas, and work to find ways to fix our education system. More than anything GIS is a tool to bring to light data and empower decision makers.


A great example of this comes from a mobile app that allows citizens to view the impact of US recovery projects. “Citizens can now use their smartphones to see just how the United States government is spending stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Shortly after the act passed, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board launched a web application based on Esri technology that enables the public to track the $276 billion being spent on contracts, grants, and loans throughout the country. In late 2011, the board released a mobile version of the application for iPhone and iPad that offers the same functionality on the go,” Esri states.

But there are so many more examples for government, at the state, local and federal level. Knowing where to place windmills in the most optimal location based on environmental data, understanding traffic patterns, and visualizing countless kinds of different data, GIS certainly has a lot of cool applications for government. Take a look at GovLoop’s interactive infographic and report for more insights how GIS has shaped government in 2012.

Health and Human Services

With GIS and health and human services, there are many ways that GIS has been used to track disease, and make decisions to impact public health. GIS can help public organizations with disease surveillance, analysis and data collection. There are some remarkable examples of how GIS and health data have been used – one of my favorite examples that I stumbled upon is geomedicine, learn more by clicking the link below.

Certainly, GIS is making a deep impact on government, and helping to facilitate improved decision making by government employees, and this post only touched on a handful of applications of GIS. GovLoop offers up a lot of other great GIS resources, here are some of my favorites from 2012:

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. Check out the
Communications & Citizen Engagement Sub-Community of which they are a
council member.

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