Use Geospatial and Location Intelligence to Optimize Government Collaboration and Decision Making

Updated:2020/2/19 08:50

By: Bill Finnerty, Sr Director Analyst at Gartner &

Owen Chen, Sr Director Analyst at Gartner

Many governments have invested heavily in building out GIS capabilities within their organization. Emerging geospatial technologies, such as indoor location intelligence, big data analytics and GeoAI, continue to advance the importance of spatial data and analysis in government. The vast amount of data housed in these systems is a treasure trove of opportunity for addressing the significant problems that jurisdictions face. By geocoding data from other sources, combining it with existing GIS data, sharing it with constituents and creating digital services based on that data, governments can create new ways to collaborate with their ecosystems, analyze data and use maps to tell stories about major issues. Accomplishing this requires greater levels of data literacy and making the focus less about GIS and more about infusing and contextualizing GIS artifacts (maps, geo insights) to improve collaboration and decision making across the entire organization.

Communicating the current state of issues facing a community is key to gathering stakeholder support in creating initiatives to address them. Charts, graphs and tables all provide valuable information but often lack the ability to tie that information to tangible anchors for readers. Maps provide such anchors, making data relevant to community locations with which readers can identify. Such spatial-based analysis can also identify gaps in services or other inhibitors that are not clear from other forms of communications analyses.

For governments that are not currently leveraging GIS, location intelligence through web-mapping tools can provide tremendous value to operations and policy development. The growth of web-mapping tools, related services and datasets give government CIOs in this situation opportunities to introduce geospatial capabilities to their organizations with minimal overhead. Identifying existing datasets that can be, or are already, geocoded allows end users to create online maps to drive new insights. The table below provides the three use cases and related technologies covered in this note.

Table 1. Three Scenarios for Government Use of Emerging Geospatial Technologies Scenario Technologies

Source: Gartner

Improve Community and Ecosystem Access to and Use of Geospatial and Location Data to Address Challenges and Opportunities

Sharing data and information across the ecosystem is essential to establish integrated and coordinated services between government agencies, nongovernment organizations and the private sector. Governments must leverage a combination of open data and APIs to provide access to geospatial and location data for both internal and external partners to improve collaboration. As the importance of IoT continues to grow in government, data platforms that facilitate the exchange of data will be essential for governments in both consuming and sharing location data. Data platforms must support both the use of geospatial and location data and enable data orchestration across the ecosystem.

Data sharing between agencies allows data scientists and citizen data scientists, business unit IT and data specialists to combine previously dispersed sets of information to identify new impacts and trends. Providing data scientists with data-preparation tools - such as geocoding and data-matching and data-validation services - allows them to be more effective.

The ability to sense and then map the impacts of flood waters, airborne pollution and traffic incidents has never been greater than with the universal application of IoT. Mapping their impacts brings home, immediately, the effect and risk associated with any data. However, governments must analyze the impact of probable threats or events and work with their ecosystem partners to plan appropriately. Geospatial and location intelligence, enhanced through data streams from IoT sensors and other real-time sources, provides governments and their partners the ability to coordinate efforts in taking proactive steps to keep communities resilient and help them to respond to disaster events.

Not all government partners will have the technical and/or data capabilities, or in some cases the need, to support the consumption and/or development of geospatial and location data. Based on the need of ecosystem partners and the public, governments should leverage geospatial and location-based web and mobile apps to provide services, such as providing entrepreneurs with site location tools. Location-based web and mobile apps provide context-aware and personalized experience and tools for crowdsourcing data collection and services.

Given that, the following are what government CIOs using geospatial data to drive digital across the ecosystem need to do. Firstly, direct the inclusion of geospatial and location data in the exchange of data among ecosystem partners, internal and external to the government, by developing ecosystem maps to understand data and service needs. Secondly, lead the creation of geospatial and location-based web and mobile map-based apps for sharing information with the public and crowdsourcing data collection. Thirdly, broaden the number of citizen data scientists and analysts for geospatial functions by establishing training, support and technical capabilities, by forming peer communities to share ideas and review work and by providing GIS professionals as community coaches.

Enhance Communications of Planning and Policy Development and the Related Impacts to Constituents and Partners by Leveraging 4D GIS Models and Web-Mapping Capabilities

Constituent support for planning and policy development is essential to long-term success. However, engaging constituents in meaningful ways that garner trust and support often proves difficult for governments. Constituents generally do not want to be engaged and may take passive approaches to government initiatives until an item becomes personal to them. Web maps can be impactful ways to draw the attention of constituents to the personal nature of the decision being considered.

Features such as 3D and 4D maps provide enhanced ways to communicate the impact of planning and policy decisions on jurisdictions. 3D maps can illustrate the impact of development on such quality-of-life features as views and shadows. 4D maps can also present users information about past and future state views of an area and the impact of the planned infrastructure changes on public safety, transportation and educational systems.

Planning for future development and growth requires a coordinated effort across a number of government and ecosystem partners. Geospatial intelligence supports scenario planning to aid in such efforts. Governments, working with their partners and the public, can develop maps that represent possible future development scenarios. Through the use of web maps and 3D models, they can provide participants in the planning efforts with tools to experiment with adjusting individual variables and seeing results in near-real time.

Storytelling is one of the most effective ways of communicating and maps are a means for using location to tell stories. When enhanced with contextual and supplemental information, images and video web maps can bring additional meaning to constituents and promote data literacy. A multimedia approach that includes interactive maps and models, along with other media, leverages location as an anchor for context of the story. In the era of IoT, mobile devices and web maps, using maps to communicate with constituents is critical in telling the impact of policy and planning decisions.

Therefore, government CIOs driving the use of web maps and 4D maps for communicating with constituents must firstly expand the mapping of nonspatial data by directing the development or acquisition of geocoding services, providing such data as both open data/APIs and web maps. Secondly, identify datasets that can assist in enhancing the use of geospatial capabilities by leveraging scenario planning and visioning exercises across the ecosystem to demonstrate the art of the possible. Thirdly, establish 4D modeling capabilities to add a time element to storytelling by reviewing the capabilities of existing GIS solutions and either implementing existing functionality or acquiring new functionality.

Drive Data-Driven Decision Making Using Spatial Data by Leveraging GeoAI and Spatial Analytics to Develop Proactive and Predictive Map-Based Models

Facilitating data-driven decision making in government requires that decision makers have access to the right data, at the right time, in the most meaningful format. Location can be a critical factor in decision making for governments, so presenting analysis as a map is often an effective tool for conveying information. Advances in real-time data and the use of spatial analysis and modeling tools present enhancements over previously available web maps, providing even greater impact.

By developing geospatial services that include data-sharing capabilities, web and mobile maps, and social listening, governments can provide tools to NGOs, healthcare professionals and community organizations for tracking and containing disease outbreaks. Social listening tools, when posts are geocoded, can map near-real-time insights from residents and healthcare workers, providing valuable information to those coordinating response efforts. When combined with other information shared between partners on the geospatial data platform, such as travel and transportation information, they can be used to predict outbreak patterns and take preventative actions to reduce the health and financial impact of disease.

GeoAI is the use of machine learning and deep learning techniques with spatial data. Its uses in government include analysis of large datasets related to health, human services, public safety and traffic. Benefits include its use to provide predictive insights and, as GeoAI matures, it will be necessary that organizations start to add related tools to their geospatial platform. Analysis through GeoAI can assist governments in developing predictive and proactive models that drive improved decision and policymaking.

As digital twins in government emerge, 4D geospatial models and business operating systems enhanced with machine learning, deep learning and GeoAI will have significant impacts on their capabilities to enable collaborative scenario planning on a scale previously not possible and further enhance efforts related to policy development. Digital twins of government are an emerging technology architecture and their development will take a number of years to reach a mature state. However, with the appropriate long-term investments, governments will be able to affect policymaking in a revolutionary manner.

As a result, government CIOs driving digital for economic development need to firstly speed the decision-making process by implementing real-time spatial analysis capabilities in GIS and location platforms. Secondly, make a business case for agency leaders to reinvent their processes to leverage geospatial and location data in the decision-making process by demonstrating how location and space enhance the context of data. Lastly, incorporate geospatial data into AI centers of excellence to develop capabilities in GeoAI for analyzing the impact of development and changing demographics on resiliency efforts. If establishing an AI center for excellence is not in the short-term plans for the organization, then work with local universities and startups to develop capabilities to leverage GeoAI.

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