2021 URISA Exemplary Systems in Government Award Recipients Announced


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The URISA Exemplary Systems in Government (ESIG) awards were first presented in 1981 to recognize outstanding achievement by government agencies in the use of geospatial information technology. This exemplary achievement is defined as the effective application of geospatial technologies and data that result in improved government service delivery and increased benefits to citizens. The award competition is international in nature and open to all public agencies at the local, regional, state/provincial and federal levels.

Since their commencement 40 years ago, the ESIG awards have gained considerable prestige and there is always substantial publicity given to the winning systems – both by URISA as well as the nominating jurisdictions concerned. In many cases, the awards have been the key to enabling further budget support to be provided for the systems, as well as in-house acknowledgment and acceptance of their excellence.

Nominations are made in one of two categories: Enterprise Systems which are used by multiple agencies, and Single Process Systems which are used by one agency. Nominations are required to address specific award criteria associated with system design and implementation, organizational impact and use of resources to create the system. The number of nominations received varies from year to year and in 2021 a total of nine nominations were received. Four entries were received in the Single process category and five were received in the Enterprise Systems category.

A volunteer ESIG Awards Committee is formed each year to handle the entry judging tasks and this year there were 15 people serving on the committee. They were: Dr Gary Hunter (chair); Patrick Baber; Eva Cancino; Nicole Dogan; Mike Edelson; Dianne Haley; Steve Holmes; Ian Kidner; Asher McNicol; John Nerge; Rachel Parrinello; Curtis Pulford; Carolynne Saxton; Michael Shean and Alice Wilson. URISA extends its thanks to the committee members for the time and effort they have put into the judging of this year’s ESIG submissions.

In 2021, in the first round of judging all entries were independently reviewed by three assessors, and the highest scoring entries in each category then progressed to the second round of the competition where they were each reviewed by a further five assessors. As a result, by the end of the competition each entry in the final round of judging had received eight independent scores, which determined the winning exemplary systems in each category and the close runners-up, which would receive a distinguished system prize. Accordingly, the final results of the 2021 ESIG Awards are:

Single Process Systems

• Winner: Arizona Department of Environmental Quality: "Mobile Compliance Inspections for Waste Programs"

Submitted by: Julie Mikolajczyk, GIS Manager, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Phoenix, Arizona

• Distinguished System: Commonwealth of Virginia 9-1-1 & Geospatial Services Bureau, Virginia Department of Emergency Management: “Virginia’s Next Generation 9-1-1 Dashboard”

Submitted by: Matthew Gerike, PhD, GISP, Geospatial Program Manager, Commonwealth of Virginia 9-1-1 & Geospatial Services Bureau, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, North Chesterfield, Virginia

• Distinguished System: Stark County, Ohio: “Restart Stark”

Submitted by: Skyler Dewey, GISP, GIS Team Lead, Stark County, Canton, Ohio

Enterprise Systems

• Winner: United States Virgin Islands: “United States Virgin Islands GIS Division Territorial GIS Platform & Applications”

Submitted by: L. Christopher George, GIS Administrator, Office of Lt. Governor, United States Virgin Islands GIS Division, St. Thomas, USVI

• Distinguished System: North Carolina Department of Transportation: “Project ATLAS – Advancing Transportation through Linkages, Automation and Screening”

Submitted by: Leilani Paugh, Environmental Program Manager, Division of Highways, North Carolina Department of Transportation, Raleigh, North Carolina

• Distinguished System: Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority: “RDU's GeoPortal”

Submitted by: Kristin Johnston, GISP, GIS Administrator, Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority, Morrisville, North Carolina

Judges’ Comments on the Two Winning Entries

The following summaries of the two winning entries are taken directly from the judges’ comments on the respective entries.

Single Process Winner: Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) – Mobile Compliance Inspections for Waste Programs

The mission of ADEQ's Waste Programs Division is to protect public health and the environment by reducing the risk associated with waste management, contaminated sites and regulated substances. The Mobile Compliance Inspections for Waste Programs system was designed to meet the goal of 80% of all inspection reports to be completed by staff while in the field.

ADEQ recognized they were not meeting the compliance standards they had set for their Waste Program due to the inefficiency of their manual and paper-based workflows for performing field inspections. Their choice to plan out and implement the new application gave them a more a powerful platform to introduce several very creative automations to enhance the process and really focus on reducing time and effort for field and office staff.

One issue that occurred during implementation was that it was launched during the pandemic, when staff were working from home. This actually helped them become more mobile, to establish rules to use the new application and to setup ways to do inspections remotely. They were able to recognize the limitations of their current system and instead of trying to work with what they had, they quickly adapted to implementing a different internal platform that allowed for more customization.

It was great to see both qualitative and quantitative examples given for the impact of ADEQ's system. Having both types of information helps others evaluate what impact a system such as this can have in their organizations. The user testimonials verify the usefulness and impact of the system.

The pilot project alone saw 83% of the reports created. Additionally, report generation time was reduced by 35-65%. As a result, the total annual number of reports created nearly doubled. ADEQ estimates the average report now takes 30 minutes less to create. At approximately 500 reports per year, this saves 250 hours of staff time per annum.

They were able to see immediate results once they move to full deployment. Their almost 50 percent increase in field reports completed was especially impressive since their previous attempts at streamlining the process had not yielded anywhere near those numbers. The success of their project clearly showed the value of GIS in their organization which has encouraged other departments to consider ways they can streamline their own processes using GIS applications.

In summary, ADEQ's system is a great example of implementing a GIS-based project that has many highly positive impacts in an organization. The entry submission was concise and well written with great testimonials from those who either use or have sponsored the system. The technology used is state of the art and the resources used were reasonable. Overall, this is clearly an exemplary system.

Enterprise System Winner: United States Virgin Islands – United States Virgin Islands GIS Division Territorial GIS Platform & Applications

The US Virgin Islands Geographic Information System is truly an ‘enterprise-wide’ system as it covers both the geographic and operational areas of the territory. It is interesting to note this system was literally built from the ground up as they had very little, if any, geographic base data to start from. As such, this application represents a comprehensive example of designing and building a system to the meet the needs of an organization.

Large user buy-in and reliance on the system has resulted in the development of a comprehensive GIS. With over 200 users in the US Virgin Islands government, other users such as major telecommunications and internet providers and Federal agencies are now making full use of the GIS. Users have gone, literally, from using very old DOS-based computer applications to modern web technology to display, query and report on all the GIS data layers.

The system design process brought many educational benefits, worked through a difficult design process in terms of buy-in from others (staff and leadership), and much dedication to data standardization and development efforts, which is what makes it particularly exceptional.

A small staff with limited resources was responsible for completing this huge project. They were able to leverage several grants to provide the resources they needed to create this impressively utilized system. In addition, with lean FTE resources and professional service add-ons, the use of high end powerful tools has resulted in a very impactful and economically efficient solution.

In summary, the list and quality of the user testimonials was impressive and undoubtedly this system works well for the US Virgin Islands. As an example of starting from scratch to develop an enterprise-level system, this application goes a long way in illustrating what can be accomplished, even with limited funding. This is a system for the people, built with the public in mind, and credit must be given where it is due to the level of detail the system provides. It is impressive, to say the least, to see what the U.S. Virgin Islands was able to accomplish and as such their GIS platform is truly exemplary.

The accomplishments will be recognized during GIS-Pro 2021. In addition, each system may be highlighted in an upcoming "Excellence in GIS" URISA webinar series.

To review the winning submissions for this year’s ESIG Awards, visit http://www.urisa.org/awards/exemplary-systems-in-government/.

For details about GIS-Pro 2021, visit https://www.urisa.org/gis-pro

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