Local Governments Increase Transparency Through GIS Technology

In this increasingly interconnected world people are used to accessing information quickly and easily. In turn, governments across the world are working to deliver information in a way that is more accessible, transparent and interactive to engage citizens. One way many governments are sharing information and communicating with citizens is through interactive maps. In a report by Esri, they highlight how four governments (at the state and local level) are using GIS technology to improve services and connect with citizens.

Boston, MA

Boston is using GIS to be more transparent with public projects. Citizens can log on to the city’s website and easily see where services have been requested and the status of those requests. With the mayor’s 24-hour hotline information available, they can monitor the progress of various projects such as, park improvements, street cleaning, and graffiti removal. This is a simple, but effective way to share information with citizens because the maps are clear and always up to date.


In preparation of significant population growth by 2035, Maryland created PlanMaryland. Plan Maryland is a comprehensive and interactive plan to address issues related to growth and development. Citizens could express concerns, share thoughts, and illustrate ideas via an interactive map. This helped communication between citizens and government leaders as citizens were able to express what was important to them. Moreover, government leaders responded to the comments and planning became a collaborative effort.


In 2011, Utah’s state legislature redistricting committee created a mapping application that allowed citizens to draw their own congressional, state legislative, and state school board districts. They were expected to follow the same guidelines as the committee. The legislature actually used a state board plan very similar to a citizen-generated map! This is another simple way to increase transparency, collaboration and help citizens understand the decision-making process.

Marco Island, FL

Understanding the value of social media, the City of Marco Island created an application to deliver important information through social media and mapping. Now government data and GIS automatically populate to social media platforms as part of the city’s workflow. For example, when the city issues a new building permit, a Tweet notifies citizens of the news along with additional links and information.

These are just four examples of many ways governments at all levels are using GIS technology to interact with citizens. Perhaps the best benefit of GIS technology is that complex information can be illustrated in a way that the average citizen can understand. This way more people can be aware of issues, get involved, and hold their governments accountable.

For more examples of government using GIS technology to engage citizens, check out GovLoop’s guide, “Identifying the Promise of GIS for Government.”

How is your agency using GIS technology to engage citizens?

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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Pat Fiorenza

Cool examples, it’s amazing how often GIS technology is the backbone for so many different kinds of initiatives to engage with citizens.

Barton Lorimor

I’m not the most IT saavy person in the room. Can anyone tell me how you might develop a GIS system? If I already have the data, what steps do I need to take in order to present it in a user-friendly way? Is it generally something that has to be contracted out?