GIS and Collaborative Governance

Cy Smith, Geospatial Information Officer, State of Oregon
Cy Smith, Geospatial Information Officer, State of Oregon

Cy Smith, Geospatial Information Officer, State of Oregon

After that meeting, I worked with a number of government officials for six months on a collaborative proposed governance structure for Oregon. It was based on the collaborative governance structure for GIS that has been used in Oregon for over three decades to make decisions among federal, state, local, tribal, and regional government organizations. The proposed model is not intended as a replacement for the existing silo structure of government. It’s a formal collaborative model designed to connect the silos to enable government business processes to be conducted and prevent those collaborative processes from breaking down when people move around within and between silos. When operating at full maturity, it would engage all the government and non-government organizations in decision making related to collaborative processes, and envisions civic engagement in a constructive way through a variety of focused task forces.

In part, the work put into this aspirational model prompted us to take a fresh look at ways to overcome barriers to geospatial data sharing among and between all public bodies operating throughout Oregon.

  It requires patience, curiosity and the understanding of changing business practices of an organization to effectively use GIS technology in an ever changing world   

Despite the progress we’ve made, we’ve struggled for many years with a problem common to government organizations worldwide: inability or unwillingness to share data with our partners. Instead of sharing data, government organizations often duplicate data development, update, and storage at great cost.

The Oregon Geographic Information Council (OGIC) commissioned a study ten years ago and found that Oregon state and local government spent $5 billion annually on geospatial data development, management and use, and that they wasted $200 million annually on those activities, in roughly equal proportions. Approximately 80 percent of the expense and waste was related to personnel costs for duplicated data development and update.

To combat these seemingly intractable data sharing issues, we decided we needed statutory authorization for OGIC and its mission, and a mandate for public bodies to share at least the base, or reference geospatial data, which we call Framework data. Prior to this effort, the authorization for OGIC was a Governor’s Executive Order which only provided authority over executive branch state agencies. The new legislation establishes OGIC as a collaborative governance body representing all public bodies in Oregon: state, county, city, special district, and regional government.

At the direction of the Legislature, we established a 24-member, multi-jurisdictional stakeholder group to draft the legislation. We worked with this group for 9 months prior to legislative introduction of our agreed upon bill (HB 2906). The new law mandates that all public bodies in Oregon share geospatial Framework data with each other. The regional, tribal, and local government stakeholders demanded, in exchange for their support, that the legislation include the necessity to share the Framework data securely, meaning that the data is not all simply placed in the public domain. That provision sets the stage for my group, the State CIO’s Geospatial Enterprise Office, to set up a secure data hub from which all public bodies will share Framework data with each other. This approach has created a new partnership between all public bodies and a collaborative governance structure to make decisions about how that partnership will be managed. The new OGIC collaboration gives all public bodies an equitable seat at the table, and should result in significant savings and/or cost avoidance over time. I’m hopeful it will also lead to more consistent, effective, and efficient government services across the state, as most government services rely on geospatial data.

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