GIS mapping technology plays a fundamental role in powering modern government. From improving the citizen experience to making better data-driven decisions, GIS technology empowers local governments to operate more efficiently with valuable, visual insights about virtually any issue.
Yet, without knowing what geographic information systems are and the specific use cases for how they can be used by municipalities, you may be wondering about all of the hype and ways you can be applying GIS in your locality.
In this article, you’ll learn how every local government department can use and benefit from using GIS. Read on to learn how GIS can lead to resource savings, enhanced response capabilities, increased community engagement, and more.
What is a GIS?
Geographic Information System (GIS) software is a tool used by organizations, like local governments, to capture, store, analyze, and visualize location-based data. Users can take GIS data and create interactive maps to display data visually. Visualizing data is often helpful in identifying patterns, understanding relationships, and providing more context to complex issues.
GIS maps play a significant role in local governments. Every department can use GIS to further its own mission, whether that involves increasing community engagement, improving resource management, or enhancing emergency responses. Continue reading to learn more benefits of using GIS in local government.
Every GovPilot customer gets access to a GIS map, whether you choose 1 software module for your locality or an unlimited pricing plan with access to 150+ modules.
Key Ways GIS Benefits Local Government Departments
Better Government Communications with Citizens
GIS maps can be public facing (like this Linden, NJ 3D Map) to give citizens key insights on what’s happening in your community. Will there be road closures in coming weeks? Give commuters a heads up? Did heavy rainfall leave an area flooded? Your geographic information systems can be updated to let community-members know in real time. If a new public space is being built, point it out on the map to let citizens know.
Let your citizens know that they can find out critical information about your community directly from your local GIS map (which can be made available via government website design updates and accessible from Google.)
GIS mapping technology provides localities accurate and up-to-date information, which enables them to make informed decisions about resource allocation. This can help determine where to invest infrastructure, how to optimize transportation routes, and where to focus programmatic efforts. GIS can also help local governments identify areas of waste, inefficiency, and overlapping services.
Better Access to Property Records
GIS is a geospatial database that can link information about individual properties to specific locations on a map. Because this database can store a vast array of information, including ownership, zoning, land use, tax assessments, and building permits, among other things, localities can use GIS to retrieve information quickly and efficiently.
By visualizing data on a map, localities can identify patterns and relationships between data sets that may not have been apparent in a spreadsheet. Localities can use GIS to identify crime hotspots, traffic patterns, population demographics, or levels of citizen engagement.
GIS can help local government departments improve efficiencies by providing a centralized platform for data collection, analysis and visualization. Departments can automate the process of updating property information, which reduces staff workloads. Real-time location data can also help dispatch resources more quickly.
Streamline Citizen Engagement
Platforms powered by GIS technology allow citizens to access and interact with government data in a user-friendly format. GIS-based applications enable citizens to report a concern that can then be automatically routed to the appropriate department for quick resolution. Interactive maps can also make it easier for citizens to understand complex issues.
Analyzing geospatial data over time can help local governments monitor changes to land use, population density, infrastructure conditions, and natural resources. Doing so allows localities to not only be more prepared in the future, but also to better communicate changes to the public.
Make Better-Informed Decisions
With GIS tools, local governments can gather data on virtually all issues, including citizen satisfaction, environmental changes, economic shifts, racial inequities, public health risks, social service coverage, and much more. With these insights, localities can make better-informed decisions to aid in the quality of life for their residents.
How Local Government Departments Use GIS
Here are the key benefits of GIS for municipal and county departments:
Any city or department leader like the city manager or administrator that creates policy or makes executive decisions can benefit from using GIS technology. With access to data on citizen feedback and specific issue areas, administrators can better identify areas for improvement, manage resource allocation, identify patterns, and make more informed policy decisions.
Documents like permitting and licensing applications are accessible by officials in real time, giving city leaders completely up-to-date data. Learn more about government software for city administrators.
Planning and Zoning
Planners and land use specialists depend on GIS to analyze land use patterns, identify potential development sites, create zoning maps, and record zoning regulations. GIS can also help planners create more accurate population projections, assess the impact of new developments on traffic patterns, and make more informed decisions about where to allocate new public services.
Planning and zoning software will move zoning permits, land use applications, and more to a fully digital format and store this data alongside other property records via your government geographic information systems.
GIS can be used to monitor construction sites for compliance with building codes and safety regulations, track the progress of construction projects, identify potential hazards and risks, and analyze the impact of new developments on the surrounding environment. GIS-based applications can manage and maintain building records, track inspection schedules, and improve communication and transparency with the public.
Government construction software offers digital inspection forms that are accessible from a government mobile field device like a tablet for inspectors to use on-site at the construction zone. Just like all public records, inspection documents will be instantly easy to pull up from your GIS map.
Learn more about Improving Building Inspection Workflows.
Public health departments can use GIS to analyze and visualize health-related data, such as disease outbreaks, health disparities, and environmental health hazards throughout a community. This can help identify high-risk areas, track the spread of diseases, and plan effective interventions. With GIS data, public health departments can monitor the availability and accessibility of care to areas in need.
Modern health inspection technology offers the same benefits shared above for the construction department. Forms can be created for retail food inspections, aquatic facility inspections, and more and be instantly accessible from the government cloud.
Clerks can improve the efficiency of their offices by using GIS technology to manage land records, property tax assessments, and voter registration information. With GIS, Clerks can quickly locate and retrieve information without having to file through paper records. With information readily available in digital formats, Clerks can enhance public record request workflows to improve access to critical government documents, which improves transparency and customer service.
Code Enforcement and Police
Code enforcement and police departments can use GIS to identify and map areas with high crime rates and code violations, which aids in allocating resources more effectively. GIS helps identify properties with multiple violations, which can help officers narrow down root causes of violations and crime. Code enforcement and police departments can also improve their response times with GIS data, which ultimately enhances public safety.
GIS can provide important information like evacuation routes, flood zones, hazardous material storage, and critical infrastructure locations, which can help emergency management departments to prepare for and respond to disasters and emergencies. In the event of a crisis, GIS can help create maps and models, track resources, and help make important decisions quickly as a key feature of emergency management software.
Consider these additional disaster preparedness tips:
- How to Build Disaster Resilient Infrastructure
- Flood Mitigation & Disaster Planning Tips for Governments
- Fire Mitigation & Disaster Planning Tips for Governments
- Landslide Mitigation & Disaster Planning Tips for Governments
- Winter Storm Mitigation & Disaster Planning Tips for Governments
Housing departments can use GIS technology and municipal housing software to map and analyze a variety of housing related data, including the location and condition of properties, occupancy rates, and demographic information. It can also help identify areas with high demand for affordable housing and help plan and prioritize housing development projects.
Public Works and Engineering
Public works and engineering departments can use GIS to plan, design, and manage infrastructure assets, such as roads, bridges, water supply networks, and waste management facilities. By using GIS, they can analyze data related to land use, traffic patterns, topography, and environmental conditions to evaluate the feasibility of new projects and improve existing ones. GIS can also assist in asset management and maintenance by providing real-time information about the condition of infrastructure and equipment.
How to Onboard GIS Maps in Local Governments
While it might seem daunting to start incorporating GIS in your everyday work, using the right tools can make the experience seamless. GovPilot offers an operating system for GIS mapping technology and public data storage that's user-friendly and easy to learn. Beyond data visualization and improved data storage, GovPilot’s solutions save departments time and resources by eliminating paper and manual tasks, as well as eliminating data and communication silos.
Training your team on the best practices of using GovPilot’s GIS mapping technology takes only a few manageable steps, and our government software Onboarding Project Managers are with you every step of the way. Public officials have reported feeling comfortable using public records technology and the GIS map in just a few days (you can learn more about that in GovPilot’s local government case studies.)
If funding is a challenge, consider applying for grants issued through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Infrastructure Bill to purchase new technology.
Modernize Local Government Infrastructure with GovPilot
There’s more to GIS than just maps. GIS technology is a powerful tool capable of transforming local government departments into efficient and modern organizations. Onboarding GIS maps into local governments can bring numerous benefits to virtually all departments and the communities they serve.
With funding from grants, localities can take proactive steps to modernize with new technology from GovPilot. Using the right tools and resources, local governments can quickly make informed decisions, deliver higher-quality service, and build better communities for their residents.
To learn how GovPilot’s public sector software can bring your locality into the digital-first world, book a consultation with a member of our team today.
Read on for the latest government resources with tips and trends: