In mid-January 2000, North Dakota's Chief Information Officer (CIO) was contacted by a representative from the GIS Technical Committee (GISTC) asking that the Information Technology Department (ITD) revisit a request submitted by the GISTC about a year earlier. That request asked ITD to study the need for a centralized GIS hosting service for North Dakota state agencies and their partners. This service would provide a means of sharing the GIS information being stored locally at each agency.
The CIO agreed that GIS is an important technology for state government and that ITD should take a leading role in GIS. The search for a consulting firm to advise ITD resulted in selection of Convergent Group from Denver, Colorado.
The Convergent Group's first task was to do an preliminary review of GIS in state government. The preliminary review was conducted by interviewing several state agencies that use GIS. The agencies interviewed were: Game and Fish; Parks and Recreation, Water Commission, Economic Development and Finance, Department of Health, Department of Transportation, and Geologic Survey.
The preliminary review results indicated agency agreement on the following:
- GIS is important to state government,
- Declining budgets make GIS a hard sell
- Hiring and retaining GIS talent is difficult
- Agencies would like to do more cost sharing,
- GIS focus needs to be toward web-enabling GIS information.
The preliminary review identified differences among the various agencies in the following areas:
- Data Models
The hard facts are:
- Most agencies cannot justify GIS initiatives alone
- GIS actions need to be focused by business case
- The business case is tight and it cannot be based solely on elimination of redundancy/cost sharing
- For GIS to be successful state government needs more funding.
Based on the preliminary review, ITD decided to retain the Convergent Group to do a more comprehensive study of GIS in North Dakota State government. That report was started in March 2000 with completion in early April 2000.
On March 8, 2000, ITD hosted a GIS informational session. The Convergent Group presented general and technical GIS information as well as a summary of their findings to-date. ITD stated their commitment to the GIS initiative at that session.
In response to the widespread demand by state agencies and due to the efforts of key individuals from the Department of Transportation, the State Water Commission, and the Information Technology Department, the North Dakota State Legislature appropriated funds in 2001 to develop a GIS infrastructure termed the "GIS Hub."
The Convergent Group from Denver, Colorado, d.b.a. SchlumbergerSema, was retained to develop a development plan and architecture of the GIS Hub. Three agencies from the North Dakota GISTC were selected to serve as Pilot Agencies. They were the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health, and the State Water Commission. SchlumbergerSema worked closely with the Pilot Agencies to develop a project plan and vision of the project. SchlumbergerSema worked with the Information Technology Department to define the architecture to be utilized by the GIS Hub.
Collaboration was and continues to be a key component of the GIS Hub. Early in the program, the Department of Emergency Services, using FEMA funds from the Devils Lake, North Dakota risk assessment project, provided a substantial amount of the GIS Hub hardware and software on a cost sharing basis. The Information Technology Department provides the hosting infrastructure and support services for the GIS Hub. Database administrators, web application developers, web presentation developers, and system administrators all work together to provide a reliable, scalable, and secure environment for the GIS Hub.
The GISTC provided and continues to provide countless hours of planning and discussion on what the GIS Hub should be for state agencies and the public. The GISTC is an excellent example of state agencies working together. This group has defined ownership and stewardship of data stored within their agencies, and provides a conduit for communication and data to other agencies and organizations.