Educating rural towns about GIS

By Joe Francica

A long time colleague reminded me this week that the need for GIS technology by small municipalities is larger than the supply of talented people to do the work.The past Executive Director of the Kentucky Office of Geographic Information, Susan Carson Lambert, echoed the same sentiment when I spoke with her a few weeks ago for our Women in GIS series.The problem is not that GIS is unrecognized as a useful technology.Thankfully, organization such as URISA and the National Association of Counties (NaCO) have done their job in providing forums to member counties and supported by companies such as Intergraph and ESRI.

The problem is one of efficient utilization of the technology.Some smaller towns need storm water or electrical outage management systems.Many are still working with computer-aided drafting (CAD) systems where topological databases have yet to be built to provide the ability to spatially integrate and analyze data for use in land use planning, environmental management reporting or developing suitable parcel records from photogrammetrically-gathered information.Worse, un-educated and untrained consultants, using the "old-boy" network hinder advances that would help these communities deal with serious problems.

I live in one of these "larger small cities" where the "geographically literate" are counting the days for the "geographically-challenged" tax assessor to vacate his office so that tax records and the land base can be brought into the 21st century.Pity that such a situation is not uncommon.Politics makes strange bedfellows while making others cringe with anticipation and anxiety.

Next Monday, Directions Magazine will announce the launch of a major initiative that provides a "marketplace" to facilitate a more "perfect" flow of information between small, as well as large communities, corporations, and other enterprises in need of well-trained GIS professionals.Watch this space.

Published Thursday, April 4th, 2002

Written by Joe Francica

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