A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a tool that builds maps. Currently, most GIS’ at the Federal, State and local levels are housed separately, which causes significant challenges for partnering on new and existing projects. With the introduction of the data sharing using new technologies, organizations can upload and share GIS data to collaborate on many projects.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is sponsoring a new initiative for GIS data sharing. The FHWA is using a model that the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) developed called uPlan. uPlan uses Software as a Service (SaaS) technology that is cloud-based, which means that all tools and data are accessible over the Web.
Using the cloud-based technology allows data sharing and collaboration of GIS data to internal and external partners to create maps and share the latest data. The GIS data can be access controlled to allow sharing of only the data that partners want to provide, which offers increased data control access.
By using the uPlan model, the FHWA will evaluate and deploy cloud-based, SaaS collaboration and mapping technology for the purposes of improving the quality and speed of project decisions.
There are several benefits to using the GIS Collaboration Model:
- Sharing data and consistency: Deliver a common data view to agencies, process partners and stakeholders. The data warehouse functionality supports cross-referencing data from different sources. This also facilitates shared training and improved communications across organizations leading to improved decision making and scheduling.
- Fostering collaboration: Showing the value of data sharing to potential partners helps to build collaborative relationships and manage people and data resources. Including flexible roles and affiliations allows users to form groups for sharing data and reports and facilitates collaboration both within an agency and with members of other agencies.
- Focusing the use of resources: By shifting from internally developed and supported Web applications to a SaaS model, UDOT is now able to focus internal staff resources on content and accessibility for users.
- Providing data accessibility and potential savings: Using a SaaS model means your data and tools are accessible at anytime from anywhere. In addition, there are potential savings from spending less on Information Technology (IT) resources and infrastructure and refocusing those resources elsewhere.
Many State DOTs have recognized the potential of GIS and have the necessary systems and resources in place. Using the FHWA model will help usher existing GIS into the next technology phase.