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Executive Summary

Since the first planning effort for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in state government was completed in 1990, the State of Maine has had ten years of experience and success in implementing the GIS technology in state agencies. All state agencies, as well as GIS-capable institutions outside of state government, have access to the highest quality, digital base map information through the Maine Office of GIS. Agencies are putting GIS capabilities directly into the hands of people who will most benefit from its application. Environmental specialists are using GIS at the site level to improve decisions about development projects. Geologists are using the technology to help compile geological maps and make the information widely available. Managers are able to review detailed road project and accident information easily thanks to GIS. Soon everyone in the state will benefit directly from GIS every time they dial 911 as the State's Enhanced 911 system is put into place. Collectively, these data and the expertise to use them represent the greatest investments and assets of the system.

The GIS Executive Council adopted this vision: Improve the delivery of services and goods for Maine's citizens and businesses by proactively providing geographically related information and the corresponding technology, education and understanding of its use. Nine goals support this vision:

  1. Maintain, enhance and support geographic information technology capabilities throughout the State of Maine.
  2. Maintain and enhance a comprehensive set of data that have known accuracy and standard and well-documented definitions.
  3. Enhance access to geographic data within State government.
  4. Be responsive to the initiatives of the current administration and legislature.
  5. Promote partnerships between the State, private sector, local governments, regional organizations and the Federal government.
  6. Ensure coordination among the State agencies in the use of geographic information technology.
  7. Ensure the stability of the State's geographic information efforts through adequate funding.
  8. Provide opportunities for education, training and technical support for all users.
  9. Expand the acquisition of geographically oriented data.

Maine's Economic Development Strategy and more recent initiatives related to "Smart Growth" involve many levels of government and require information and decision-making tools that GIS can best provide. Business attraction and expansion activities, for example, rely heavily on geographic information for physical site selection, analysis of work force, and related activities. Furthermore, with the current "Smart Growth" initiative, developers and planners must balance economic development and growth management in order to protect natural resources and the environment. Both these tasks involve many layers of complexly related information that are best analyzed with GIS tools.

Maine state agencies are well positioned to make efficient use of GIS to improve services, minimize duplicative efforts, and save money. Central functions of GIS, including maintaining framework datasets, providing internet access to these and agency datasets, GIS training and common infrastructure, reside with the Maine Office of GIS. Many agencies, however, have full-time and specific GIS needs that cannot be efficiently conducted by the central office. For example, environmental regulators use GIS on their desktop as a primary tool to be used with others in reviewing applications and in developing mitigation plans. Road design groups use GIS as one of their basic tools in developing construction projects. Some agencies use GIS as their primary means for producing on-demand hardcopy maps of natural resource information for distribution to the public. While all these agencies have individual needs, they all rely on the central office for base map information and digital data distribution.

Much of the need for geographic information is at the local level to support various planning and resource management issues. It is likely that the GIS user base will double in the near future through increased access at the local level. The statewide system must provide better access to information for municipalities and develop a mechanism whereby appropriate local information can be incorporated into state datasets for broader use.

Most of the funds for GIS development to date have been borne by state agencies. To support the increasing demand for GIS services, funding for a statewide GIS is needed at all levels and will involve a mix of state, federal and dedicated funds, grants, and fees from the private sector. Ongoing maintenance of existing data and common supporting infrastructure will be funded by state agencies. Additional funds will be needed to support expanded access by municipalities.

The GIS Executive Council's recommendations are the following:

  • The GIS Executive Council will commission a formal user-needs analysis designed to accommodate an expanding user base; to develop implementation strategies for a statewide GIS; and to determine specific statewide infrastructure needs with respect to the new technology and improving telecommunications. Funds are required for a new state position and to support system analysis, design and implementation. The Office of GIS and GIS Executive Council will make GIS system planning a priority ongoing activity.
  • A General Fund appropriation is necessary to support ongoing Office of GIS functions that directly serve local government and the general public and to promote compatible systems at the municipal level. A new state position will be dedicated to local government GIS activities. An outreach council of citizens, municipalities, academia, and small associations will be initiated to promote data access by agencies outside state government.
  • A General Fund appropriation is necessary to support the enhancement of existing geographic information to better meet the needs of government and to develop new GIS databases to support current and planned state initiatives.
  • To facilitate better sharing of databases and minimization of duplication, there will be an on-going inventory of existing GIS databases, and of current and planned GIS data projects

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  • Michael Smith, Chair
    Office of Information Technology
    Maine Office of GIS
    145 State House Station
    Augusta, Maine 04333-0145

    Email: Michael.Smith@maine.gov