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What is Your Greatest GIS Challenge?

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The GovLoop report, Identifying the Promise of GIS for Government, focuses on best practices, case studies and identifies innovative uses of geographic information system (GIS) technology in government. Across government GIS technology has fueled innovation. Often implemented in tandem with other initiatives, GIS is a critical component to help government solve some of its most pressing challenges. If you have any questions about the report, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected], or please feel free to leave a comment below.

As part of GovLoop’s survey, participants were asked to share what their greatest challenge implementing GIS was, one response indicated, “The biggest challenge is designing for current and future use. Creating a system that is scalable in nature so it can fit unpredicted needs is crucial, yet challenging.”

One interesting discussion that arose from the survey was on software licenses. In many areas of government, license sharing for software is a challenge. Two responses show both perspectives of the issue, “The biggest challenge is decentralized offices, data sharing and need more license.” Another respondent stated, “If someone else answers this question saying that we need more software licenses, then that should put up a red flag. It isn’t about the software, it’s about the people.” The respondent continued to state that there is a dire need for more properly trained GIS officials, and easier access to products.

Download PDF or View the Report Online

Training was a common answer from respondents, as another respondent stated, “Human Resources, the people are the limiting factor on the use of the technology and the data that makes the technology useful.”

There was also a significant contribution of answers regarding regulation. Respondents stated, “My fellow colleagues would say lack of data management highly incorporated in our business models along with lack of funding. Although I think this has merit, the response to first question clearly identifies where the root cause of problem lies. It is lack of clear authority for all government agencies and private industry to follow. Certain of my conservative friends would disagree, but GIS needs to be regulated much more.”

Further, a respondent identified the need to standardize information, “Standardize information, get people involved in the culture of sharing the information and having their contractors collect and send standardized info.” Likewise, a respondent mentioned the need to collaborate in decentralized environment, stating, “Collaboration on corporate and business specific datasets across a vast decentralized organization.”

A final response from a survey participant provides some great insights to some of the challenges being faced by GIS officials. “I can list several key challenges: we have a complex mission with a huge number of programs and a huge range and number of data sets; we have not developed data standards for all mission-critical data (and therefore it is not collected and catalogued uniformly making it hard to create national GIS); pressure to reduce costs and reduce data centers in Federal agencies makes it hard for us to have an enterprise GIS; DOI geospatial and IT policies are in flux; GIS software products are updated before we can learn the potential of the last version; we don’t have enough in-house system administrators to maintain any GIS viewers/applications we develop. It’s therefore difficult to show the value of GIS historically and currently to our agency (hard to tell clear stories to non-technical/non GIS experts).”

There was a lot of great insights about greatest challenges for implementing GIS initiatives. Be sure to take a look at the report for some best practices and practical solutions to avoid common challenges.

What are some best practices or solutions you recommend?

When 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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Omar L. Tribek

As a Linguist Analyst working with spatial and GIS analysts, I have identified a series of challenges not only related to the lack of ” standardized information”, but to the implementation of the GIS technology as a tool and to its application on social systems such as Tribal organizations. The core problem that still defies the team of Analysts is how to capture a fluid, scattered, mobile network of groups that are related by blood ( Tribes, clans, sub clans) and display that kinship relation on space. Part of the multifaceted problematic is the Concept definition challenge: When you can’t clear the fuzziness in definition between a clan and a sub-tribe for instance, you give the same graphical/spatial representation ( Polygons ) to both, ignoring the fact that each tribal group may have different definition of its components: a clan within a confederation A could be larger or the same size of a Tribe in a confederation B. So, this aspect is the what the Geographic Information system needs to incorporate in a fashion that doesn’t alter the real state of the social dynamics .

Another challenge that these Analysts are facing is the nonconformity of the naming system: In the exploitation of native maps, often times the geographical features of the terrain are not represented using a conventional/Universal classification system, but a local naming system that is rooted in the country’s culture. What worked for the Native American tribes in terms of GIS tools will not automatically work for other social groups with a different cultural values. A cultural initiation of the population object of study is crucial step in implementing the GIS tools prior to understanding the Human geography of the region being studied.