Michael Byrne, the Geographic Information Officer for the State of California, gave a talk about the role of GIS in his state during the Senior Executive Seminar at the ESRI User Conference. Byrne was standing in for Teri Takai, the Chief Information Officer for the state, who was called away for an important weekend budget meeting.
While Byrne may be considered biased toward the importance of geography, he asserted that GIS is the state’s #1 enterprise technology priority due to it’s power to raise human capital and inform better decisions. He stated that GIS is the new whiteboard for discussing policy decisions and that it’s a key technology that the governor supports and expects to be available and as reliable as energy or water. The governor has seen the power of GIS technology to save lives during the state’s wildfires, and he gets it and is very interested.
California has a considerable investment in GIS with 200 terabytes of data, more than 11,000 databases, and at least 40 state agencies using the data. The state has pioneered several innnovative Web-based GIS projects recently that include the Cal-Atlas clearinghouse, a detailed School Finder with every available metric of all institutions that is location-based, and a statewide Health Care Atlas with health data for the whole state. GIS has a high profile at the lead agencies in the state, and it’s role is growing because it facilitates communication and can inform and engage the public in policy debates.