Five Questions for US DOT GIO Steve Lewis

By Adena Schutzberg

Adena Schutzberg interviewed Steve Lewis, who was appointed to the position of U.S. Department of Transportation Geographic Information Officer on July 1. In addition to the GIO job, Lewis still holds his previous job as manager of the Geospatial Information Program at the DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Adena Schutzberg (AS): The announcement of your appointment states that you "will work with the DOT CIO, OA CIOs, and other DOT stakeholders to promote the effective, secure use of innovative geospatial technologies within DOT, maximize operational efficiencies, and prevent duplication of geospatial activities." How do you plan to do that? Who do you consider your stakeholders? Are they all within DOT, or are some outside of DOT? Perhaps DHS? Commerce?

Steve Lewis (SL):
The first step in this process is to develop a Geospatial Community of Interest within DOT. Although there have been other attempts to unite the geospatial community here, they were all based on first addressing Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) and/or OMB requirements. There were no attempts to create a true sense of community, where the members can learn from each other and leverage the work that is being done across all of the DOT Operating Administrations. The community will, of course, address FGDC and OMB requirements, but it will also focus heavily on sharing experiences and working together. To aid in this, I plan to develop an internal geospatial wiki for our community to use. We will also make use of other Web tools, such as Microsoft Sharepoint, to facilitate sharing of information across the community.

Since my initial focus as Geographic Information Officer is the internal DOT geospatial community, they will be my initial stakeholders. The focus will expand to include stakeholders from throughout the public and private sectors.

AS: Which skill set do you think is more valuable in a GIO, technical skills or management/team building/people skills? Why?

I believe that you need a good mix of skills. At this level, the management/team building/people skills are critical, but I think that a solid technical base is also needed. The technical base assures that you can relate and communicate with all of your stakeholders.

AS: Is this office - or are you as the office-holder - likely to be impacted by the upcoming change in administration in January 2009?

The change in administration should not affect the momentum we are creating. The GIO position here at DOT is a permanent one. Geospatial information will remain an important enabler of the DOT mission. Under the current administration, I have tremendous support from the CIO, Dan Mintz. I believe that if I can show progress in uniting the geospatial community at DOT, the administration that follows will also be supportive.

AS: Does DOT currently have processes in place to monitor DOT geospatial technology use, in particular to confirm it's secure, efficient and non-redundant? Or will some of these need to be built from scratch?

A lot of these will have to be built from scratch. DOT does have effective information security processes. However, without a true geospatial community, the geospatial programs within the DOT have operated independently. Unfortunately, that led to redundancy and duplication of effort. I look forward to working with the geospatial community here to remedy that.

AS: Once progress has been made at DOT, do you see potential for the GIO role to grow to include interacting with other GIOs within the federal government? No doubt there are some similar challenges to be shared?

Definitely. Not only will I work with and learn from the other federal GIOs, but I will also interact with state level GIOs through the National States Geographic Information Council. I also intend to reach out to geospatial professionals at the state DOT level through the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

Published Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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