Government Data + Maps: 10 Great Examples

Explore 10 ways federal agencies use geographic information system (GIS) technology and maps to improve decision making and deliver public information.

Elena Malykhina, Technology Journalist

June 11, 2014

10 Slides

Nearly every federal government agency uses geographic information system (GIS) technology to meet various mission goals. Agencies rely on GIS for asset management, citizen engagement, public policy, planning and analysis, disaster response, and much more.

"GIS brings transparency and accountability to federal government by engaging citizens through dynamic, interactive maps," Christopher Thomas, director of federal government solutions for Esri, told InformationWeek Government. Esri offers GIS software and geodatabase management applications that address key federal initiatives and mandates.

Earlier this year, Esri launched an open data initiative centered on helping federal agencies create custom websites to easily share data. Esri made enhancements to ArcGIS Online, a geospatial platform that allows users to create interactive Web maps and apps. The new ArcGIS Online allows organizations -- in this case, government agencies -- to build custom, open data websites in minutes. The public can then search ArcGIS Online and download data by topic or location, filter the information, and see it on an interactive map.

It’s a simpler way of making geospatial data accessible to the public, and it supports President Obama’s vision to open up government data, Thomas said about the enhancements. A year ago, the President signed an executive order requiring that all data generated by the government must be made publicly available in open, machine-readable formats. The Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy also released an Open Data Policy calling on agencies to manage government information as an asset.

Agencies have responded with a number of open data initiatives, as well as other efforts like holding open data roundtables with private-sector users of government data to encourage new business opportunities.

Thomas said:

From open government to open data, the current administration calls for new innovative ideas, tools, and improved policies that reform government and make it smarter, more efficient, more transparent, more collaborative, more responsive, and better serves the American people. But to change the path of government, innovation needs to go beyond great ideas and become enmeshed with the infrastructure in place. Through GIS, innovative maps and applications are inspiring and enabling raw data and great ideas to be put to action, transforming government and the world around us.

Our slideshow features 10 maps created by agencies with ArcGIS Online. The maps reflect how the government is using geographic data to keep the public up-to-date on different issues -- from coastal flooding to forest insect and disease conditions. The maps are also used internally by agencies to make important decisions, such as providing medical access to veterans.

About the Author(s)

Elena Malykhina

Technology Journalist

Elena Malykhina began her career at The Wall Street Journal, and her writing has appeared in various news media outlets, including Scientific American, Newsday, and the Associated Press. For several years, she was the online editor at Brandweek and later Adweek, where she followed the world of advertising. Having earned the nickname of "gadget girl," she is excited to be writing about technology again for InformationWeek, where she worked in the past as an associate editor covering the mobile and wireless space. She now writes about the federal government and NASA’s space missions on occasion.

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