City, county, regional, and state government organizations must all must deliver a broad range of services to their citizens – typically within tight budgets, government regulations, and personnel constraints. Whether locating a water main, approving a building permit, or planning for emergency response, intelligent, accurate, and readily available spatial information is necessary for the proper delivery of these services. This is why geospatial technology tools can serve an integral role in the daily operations of government. These tools facilitate smart, cost effective decisions related to the growth of cities and counties while minimizing negative impacts on the environment. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is evolving into a mainstream technology central to government operations for evaluating planning and engineering alternatives, developing better solutions, and producing maps to effectively communicate with local stakeholders who are concerned about potential growth in their communities.
Interactive maps on a local level are a powerful tool to help determine development regulations for any given parcel of land. Zoning, lot dimensions, wetlands, steep slopes, aerial photos, and other property characteristics can be processed by GIS and displayed in easy-to-understand formats.
County and city public works can use GIS to efficiently organize their work assignments, answer questions, or report the location of problems. Public safety officials can view the location of their fleet online and get the exact location of an incident, and even the closest landmark. Geospatial technology can assist dispatchers to more easily locate all available units and determine which one(s) can most quickly respond to an incident, instead of radioing back and forth with each vehicle. This reduces the time it takes to respond to emergency calls, which ultimately improves safety for the community.
One of the more significant uses of geospatial technology by local government is communicating with the community. Geospatial data and tools can provide a visual display of community plans, land-use changes, and changes in voter precincts, along with other useful information. One of the greatest benefits to a community is information sharing from law enforcement agencies via web-based mapping sites for up-to-date information on burglaries, thefts, registered sex offenders, and other crimes.
Election officials can use geospatial tools throughout the year to help with all tasks associated with local elections. To get the correct ballot to the appropriate voter, election workers can use GIS to match up a voter’s address with political districts, precinct boundaries, as well as water and school districts. With rapidly growing communities, new developments, and population fluctuations, keeping accurate voter counts by precinct is a continuous and critical process.
Geospatial tools and data are also being used effectively to enhance local economic development efforts. Local economic development groups use it to perform analysis on parcels in a county to determine which ones are best suited for a particular new use. For example, one or two parcels will rise to the top as being the best manufacturing sites. Being able to show this quantifiable information to potential businesses goes a long way toward enticing companies to locate in a particular area.