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Strategic Plan

"Toward a Statewide Geographic Information System - Making GIS More Accessible and Easier to Use"

GIS Executive Council, January 18, 2000

Participating Agencies
Administrative & Financial Services Labor
Agriculture Legislative Council
Central Maine Power Marine Resources
Conservation Mental Health, Retardation & Substance Abuse
Corrections Professional & Financial Regulations
Education Public Safety
Economic & Community Development Public Utilities Commission
Environmental Protection State Planning Office
Historic Preservation Commission Transportation
Human Services University of Maine System
Inland Fisheries & Wildlife  

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:

  • Maintain, enhance and support geographic information technology capabilities throughout the State of Maine.
  • Maintain and enhance a comprehensive set of data that have known accuracy and standard and well-documented definitions.
  • Enhance access to geographic data within State government.
  • Be responsive to the initiatives of the current administration and legislature.
  • Promote partnerships between the State, private sector, local governments, regional organizations and the Federal government.
  • Ensure coordination among the State agencies in the use of geographic information technology.
  • Ensure the stability of the State's geographic information efforts through adequate funding.
  • Provide opportunities for education, training and technical support for all users.
  • 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 datasets and minimization of duplication, there will be an on-going inventory of existing GIS datasets, and of current and planned GIS data projects.

Introduction

The GIS Executive Council hosted a daylong strategic planning session on November 15, 1999 to begin developing a 5-year strategic plan for GIS. The discussion that follows is the result of input from that meeting and the subsequent work sessions of three subcommittees. The subcommittees were charged with developing specific action items to achieve the GIS Executive Council's vision and goals. The GIS Strategic Plan is divided into 3 sections that mirror the work of the subcommittees: 1 - Architecture, 2 - The Roles of State Agencies, Office of GIS and Organizations Outside State Government and 3 - Governance and Funding. The architecture section is further broken down into discussions of infrastructure and data. Each section is preceded by the goals that relate to that discussion.

The model for the statewide geographic information system that is discussed in the report is consistent with and builds on the centrally supported, decentralized system that has evolved since the publication of the 1990 GIS Strategic Plan. The substantial difference is that innovations in GIS technology and improvements in telecommunications systems are allowing us to centralize more of the GIS software and GIS database functions in order to make GIS more cost-effective, accessible and easier to use.

Until recently, network and GIS software constraints have limited access to GIS technology and geographic information to organizations that have powerful computers and staff with extensive training in the use of GIS software. Since the publication of the original GIS Strategic Plan in 1990, these limitations have to a large degree driven our system design. Network and technology limitations have necessitated the creation of duplicate GIS databases where a single, remotely accessible source would have been more desirable from a data management point of view. It has also been difficult to share software and applications. This has caused system inefficiencies.

Innovations in GIS technology and improvements in Maine's telecommunications network have removed many of these barriers and new opportunities to deliver GIS information, products and services over the state's internet and WAN have been created. As a result, we will be able to implement technologies that will provide equal access to GIS technology, applications and information regardless of an organization's size and resources. This will permit state agencies to cooperate more fully and gradually move towards a more robust, manageable, sustainable and efficient system.

Furthermore, improvements in technology will allow the state to better serve the needs of local government and the public. Town implementations of GIS will be less expensive and more functional, and the public will have better access to state information. Maine's educational system will also benefit and we can expect the number of K-12 classrooms, colleges, and universities using high quality GIS information to rise. Partnerships between government and education to make GIS a major industry in Maine, to undertake basic GIS research and to advance the use of GIS in Maine will also develop.

Roles of State Agencies, Office of GIS and Organizations Outside State Government

"Promote partnerships between the State, private sector, local governments, regional organizations and the Federal government"

"Ensure coordination among the State agencies in the use of geographic information technology"

"Provide opportunities for education, training and technical support for all users"

A statewide geographic information system requires the cooperation of state and local government, private industry and the public. However, GIS touches on almost every business function of state government, and as the primary users of GIS, state government must play a leading role in the use, promotion, coordination, oversight and funding of the statewide system.

GIS is now used by every state agency in Maine and the centrally supported, decentralized model that has evolved has fostered this success by allocating the work to logical areas. State agencies have full-time and very specific GIS needs that are more efficiently conducted at the agency level. Tasks related to GIS applications and data development closely tied to agency business functions are good examples. Technical support and training for agency specific applications and data interpretation are also best directed at the agency level. In addition, agencies are the custodians for the GIS data they develop, and are responsible for the integrity, updating and documentation of these databases. The agencies are also responsible for making their GIS data available to the central database on a regular basis to facilitate access by others. All agency application and data development and the supporting infrastructure must be constructed within mutually agreed upon specifications, guidelines and standards.

Services provided by the Office of GIS (OGIS) will enable and enhance the ability of agencies to utilize GIS. Certain functions of the statewide system need to be centralized to improve service, reduce duplicate efforts, and to enable cost-effectiveness. This has and will continue to be the primary role of the OGIS. Managing master copies of the State's GIS databases, developing state-of-the-art access pathways to these data resources, training, technical support and common infrastructure development and management are primary central functions. This will give all agencies, regardless of size, equal access to GIS technology and geographic information. OGIS is responsible for optimizing access to GIS and geographic information by deploying proven technology in a timely fashion. OGIS is also responsible for improving the hardware and software infrastructure to maximize the delivery of GIS products and services.

OGIS services will also be extended to enable and enhance the ability of local government and the public to cost-effectively utilize GIS. Ultimately, the full development of a GIS is directed by the GIS Executive Council's vision of improving the delivery of State services. The public is the State's client in this effort and will benefit from easy access to state geographic data, applications and technical support. This, however, requires a high level of coordination between state and local programs. The GIS system must also be promoted to ensure that compatible systems are developed and to make sure that everyone is benefiting from available resources.

Due to the current and expected growth of local GIS implementations, funding including a full-time state GIS coordination position is required to coordinate programs and promote the development of compatible systems. In addition, an Outreach Council made up of representatives of citizens, municipalities, academia, and small associations must be created to ensure that those outside state government have adequate input to the GIS Executive Council in the continuing development of the GIS. The new state GIS coordination position will help staff the Outreach Council. Providing better coordination, and therefore better information, at all levels of the enterprise, including the public, will lead to better, more efficient decision-making.

Recommendations:

  1. 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.
  2. To promote data access by agencies outside state government, an outreach council of citizens, municipalities, academia, and small associations will be initiated.

Architecture

"Maintain, enhance and support geographic information technology capabilities throughout the State of Maine"

"Enhance access to geographic data within State government"

"Maintain and enhance a comprehensive set of data that have known accuracy and standard and well-documented definitions"

"Expand the acquisition of geographically oriented data"

Infrastructure

The number of applications of GIS in government continues to grow and the GIS Executive Council expects the number of users in government to double over the next three years. The demand on the state's GIS system will increase and the system's architecture will need to be upgraded to accommodate this growth. As a result, the GIS Executive Council is recommending a statewide analysis of GIS users needs. The user needs analysis will determine specific statewide infrastructure needs with respect to the new technology, better telecommunications and a larger user base. The goal is to identify the needs so that specific details of implementation can match the needs of all users. The analysis will uncover redundancies among users, characterize current data access practices, identify commonly used data format and describe the work that is being done using GIS.

To ensure that local government and the public fully benefit from the state system, the user needs analysis will specifically address the use of the system by those outside state government. We expect the public to become sophisticated GIS users and that information and applications provided by the State will be in higher demand. We also expect that as widespread implementation occurs the role municipalities will also include the provision of local GIS information to the state.

The results of the user needs analysis will be used to design a "common" infrastructure that can be shared by agencies to eliminate redundancies and provide simplified access to GIS data and applications. Once system designs are created, they will be examined and tested to determine which meets the needs of the most users, balanced against their costs. Pilot projects will begin using existing hardware and software. As the system grows, it will be upgraded with newer hardware and software, based on the current needs of users and the system's performance.

The infrastructure will be based on high-performance, scalable architecture. The infrastructure will provide rapid response times and provide equal access to small organizations. Utilization and concurrent usage will be monitored to determine when the infrastructure needs to be expanded. The infrastructure will be designed to provide quick and easy expansion when required. The GIS Technical Committee will coordinate with BIS Database Services, Network Services and Production Services Staff to plan infrastructure to support GIS development over the next five years.

System network bandwidth must be adequate to provide transfer of data files to applications in a timely manner. OGIS will work closely with Network Services to quantitatively test and monitor wide area network applications of GIS software. This will provide a better understanding of the impact of GIS on the WAN and facilitate network and GIS design. The GIS Technical Committee will also recognize and promote a common GIS file format to facilitate use of and access to GIS data over this network.

Functions central to the system will continue to be the responsibility of the Office of GIS. These are functions that cross agency lines and are of benefit to all participants. Some of these functions involve the management of a sophisticated computer system, and some represent cost-effective ways to handle similar needs such as technical support and training.

OGIS will recommend and deploy proven technology to improve common infrastructure to give small organizations direct and equal access to GIS technology and information over the Intranet and Internet. This includes a common gateway for everyone to access state GIS data in an easy to use standard format. Servers managed by the Bureau of Information Services and the Office of GIS will be the foundation for the common GIS infrastructure. All of the state's digital geographic information will be available on these servers through the state's wide area network and Internet. Related databases will be available either on these servers or through links to agency servers. A similar centralized approach to managing software will be taken to reduce the overall cost of purchasing and maintaining GIS software.

State agencies will develop applications to tap into the common GIS infrastructure. Depending upon the type of application and software limitations, the access method will range from direct, "live" access and use of data and software to a "link and download" approach. A robust and flexible common infrastructure will encourage the former. The infrastructure will also form a foundation for the development of local government applications.

A centralized approach to database design and administration is necessary to ensure a logical, accurate and coherent organization of statewide data. This will not be a trivial task as the new technology is very complex and we expect a major reorganization of our GIS database. Agencies will also need to spend considerable time organizing their own data. This management activity will be devoted to data that is of importance to all users. While this function will continue to be needed over the life of the system, the labor-intensive portion should decrease after the initial database is built. System maintenance tasks include daily network and computer system management functions, as well as technical assistance to users. Specialized technical support is required to adapt the system to the State's computer and user environments.

The technical specifications for the overall system are intended to be flexible. However, the State has invested in one of the major GIS packages, ARC/INFO from Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI). In order to maximize training opportunities and build an environment that optimizes the State's investment in its employees, it makes sense to encourage the use of ESRI software throughout the system.

Another software product the State has made a commitment to support is ORACLE, a database management system (DBMS). ESRI has implemented Oracle as the foundation for their spatial data engine. This system is compatible with and should be considered the DBMS of choice within the GIS user community.

Finally, each agency will designate a staff member for the GIS Technical Committee to coordinate technical issues (e.g., applications, data development, infrastructure, technical support and training) with the Office of GIS.

Recommendations:

  1. 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. A new state position is required to support ongoing system analysis and implementation. The Office of GIS and Executive Council will make this a priority ongoing activity.

Data

Geographic information is the heart of the system. The GIS data model being used in Maine consists of the primary location information for a geographic feature plus attributes needed either because they are required to complete the primary data model or as a linkage to other relational attribute tables. Data is either vector or raster based.

The state's GIS database will consist of agency specific data and multipurpose data. Multipurpose GIS databases are databases for which no state agency has jurisdiction or GIS databases that are used by more than a single agency. These data will reside at a central location maintained by the Office of GIS so that all state agencies and organizations outside state government can access them. Agency database custodians are responsible for the data integrity, updates, error correction and metadata. The custodian is the party whose business function lead to the creation of the data. All data will be in a format that can be distributed to most GIS users.

Existing state digital geographic data must be expanded and enhanced to meet the current and future needs of government. Geographic data are dynamic and the system requires ongoing funding to update the data, make enhancements and to develop new data bases to support the current and future needs of the administration. The GIS Technical Committee has documented many of the current needs. For example, funding is needed to complete the digitization of the 1:24,000 scale contours, and to enhance the GIS lakes, ponds, streams and coast coverages to allow pollutant flow modeling, real-time flood assessment, stream flow monitoring and to make better maps.

Road centerline information needs to be merged with E911 road addresses and names, and higher resolution basemaps must to be considered for all governmental programs. In addition, a statewide land use and land cover database has been recommended to improve our ability to track changes in habitats and environments across the state. The GIS Technical Committee will coordinate these data development activities and direct major enhancements to the multi-purpose databases. The Committee will prioritize projects to make the best use of funds relative to current state programs.

Data standards, including metadata and data transfer standards, recommended by the GIS Technical Committee and established by the GIS Executive Council will be followed to provide more easily integrated data sets and confidence in the data. Data standards will also be consistent with regional and Federal standards. When feasible, standards will follow those adopted by other states in the northeast.

Recommendations:

  1. 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.
  2. To facilitate better sharing of datasets and minimization of duplication, there will be an on-going inventory of existing GIS datasets, and of current and planned GIS data projects.

Governance and Funding

"Maintain, enhance and support geographic information technology capabilities throughout the State of Maine"

"Be responsive to the initiatives of the current administration and legislature"

"Ensure the stability of the State's geographic information efforts through adequate funding"

The governance model in place since 1996 will be retained to guide GIS development over the next five years. The State's Executive Council will continue to provide leadership and direction for statewide Geographic Information Systems. The Council reviews needs and sets planning and program priorities for GIS functions that are common among the departments and agencies served by the Office of GIS. The Council will also actively promote and coordinate the use of GIS across the State of Maine. The Council will operate under the Charter adopted in 1996.

The GIS Technical Committee is the primary group providing input to the Council. Each agency on the Council has a representative assigned to the Technical Committee. The Committee makes recommendations to the Council concerning the technical aspects of the development of the statewide GIS.

Funding for a statewide GIS is needed at all levels. Sources of funding will be a mix of grants, general funds, dedicated revenues, federal funds and fees from the private sector. Funds will support agency applications and GIS data development as well as core GIS functions and data needs.

Funding for agency infrastructure, projects and application development will be built into specific program budgets that may or may not include general funding. The work should be guided by established GIS principles, standards and guidelines and coordinated by the GIS Executive Council. Information should be shared at the Council and Technical Committee level to ensure that cost saving partnerships develop including joint proposals for funding regardless of its source.

Ongoing maintenance and minor enhancements to existing GIS data and maintenance of common supporting infrastructure will be funded by agency service level agreements (SLA). The nature of the work and budget will be determined annually by the GIS Technical Committee. The Executive Council will set agency fees based upon the recommended work plan. The rates set by BIS for GIS staff and computers will be sufficient to support major improvements to the common GIS infrastructure including servers, software and supporting personnel. This is necessary to keep pace with all aspects of the technology (e.g., hardware, software, and training).

Funds must be appropriated for the development of new GIS databases including remotely sensed data. An annual data development appropriation from general funds will be pursued. These funds must be accessed by agencies and the Office of GIS for specific data development projects and can be used to match other sources of funding. The GIS Technical Committee will review and prioritize requests for funds on an ongoing basis and make funding recommendations to the Executive Council.

A number of major enhancements to framework GIS data have already been proposed by the GIS Technical Committee. These enhancements would benefit all levels of government and reduce agency staff time necessary to fix errors and integrate data. A one-time allocation will be sought to undertake these now. A similar project approach will be taken in subsequent years to fund other major enhancements as identified by the GIS Technical Committee.

Private sector funding will be actively pursued to support data maintenance and updating undertaken by the Office of GIS. Revenues generated from the private sector will be used to supplement funds generated by the SLAs or to expand the scope of work. An Information Policy Subcommittee will be formed to review public access laws, current licensing agreements, and use of fees collected from private organizations.

The coordination of GIS efforts and ensuring a free flow of GIS data to and from local government will be necessary for an effective statewide GIS. This effort will include resources to provide coordination and training, improvements in infrastructure to facilitate data access and ongoing marketing and education. Consistent, long-term funding is necessary and general funding will be pursued to support these activities.

Growth management legislation will place a strong emphasis on municipal use of GIS over the next five years. This will require a high level of coordination and the development of easy GIS data access pathways. The Executive Council will seek official membership on the Growth Council and related policy groups to ensure that statewide GIS development interests are met and to leverage funds.

1. The GIS Executive Council will establish a standing subcommittee to periodically review funding mechanisms including service level agreements and make recommendations concerning long-term funding for:

a) Ongoing maintenance and minor enhancements to existing GIS data and maintenance of common supporting infrastructure

b) support major improvements to the common GIS infrastructure including servers, software and supporting personnel.

NOTE: Other recommendations related to this section have been covered in prior sections. Secondary recommendations and specific tasks related to the overall report are addressed in the 5-year implementation plan.

 

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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