I recently attended the 2017 Esri FedGIS conference in Washington, D.C.; because I work on Esri's Local Government team, this event (which focuses on GIS in Federal government), isn't typically on my to-do list. However, as I wrote about last year, there is growing participation from city, county and state GIS professionals at FedGIS. In fact, for the first time this year, the FedGIS welcomed state and local government employees with special registration rates, eight targeted technical workshops and a dedicated neighborhood at the GIS Solutions EXPO and Showcase.
Working across different levels of government doesn't just happen at conferences, but of course is a regular necessity. As Patrick Callahan, GIS Manager for Prince George's County MD, described, there is a dependency that Federal agencies have on data and services provided by local governments; venues like FedGIS where each group can be exposed to the way the other is using GIS technology are informative and can advance partnerships - this is one of the reasons he attends the event regularly.
I was happy that Patrick was able to attend this year because it meant that I had a great co-presenter for my technical workshop session, titled "ArcGIS for Local Government Solutions: An Overview." Something I enjoy about the workshops at FedGIS is that they typically have not only an Esri staff presenter, but a co-presenter representing a real-world user of the technology. Patrick was a great fit for my presentation, as he was able to highlight some of the ArcGIS for Local Government solutions that he's deployed in his county, including citizen-focused solutions for government services. Specifically, his team deployed this Election Polling Place app, which has reduced phone calls to the Board of Elections from citizens looking for a polling place by 40%.
When I wasn't presenting, I was staffing the State & Local Government neighborhood, and it was there that I got to interact with many different attendees from across the US. Our conversations tended to focus on a few key themes, so I wanted to provide a recap of those topics that resonated the most among local government attendees:
- Open Data - Loudon County VA participated in the FedGIS plenary, where they shared how they support their mission of delivering detailed, accurate and timely data to internal and external constituents. This is an objective of many GIS groups within local government who manage a wide range of datasets. But innovation is driving new demand for data in a variety of different formats (GeoJSON, anyone?), which creates additional process and time for GIS teams to generate and maintain. Enter ArcGIS Open Data - as an ArcGIS user, you can use this configurable app to share access to your authoritative, current data in a variety of open formats. Loudon unveiled their GeoHub, which serves the purpose of providing access to data, but so much more. It also highlights key initiatives that are important to the County's leadership and residents. The Loudon GeoHub is a great example of what Open Data sites are maturing to be - not just content, but useful information.
- ArcGIS Solutions - As I mentioned above, this was the topic of several technical workshops, and all were well-attended. I find that people know that Esri offers configurable template apps aligned with common GIS needs, but that they are interested in learning more about how to deploy the apps and put them into action. People are often surprised at the number of free apps (over 400) to choose from - it can be overwhelming! But instead of focusing on which app to start with, or which app is right for you, I encourage people to think of ArcGIS Solutions as a road map and strategy. These configurable, supported solutions are meant to guide a pattern of deployment that lets you get new apps up quickly, stay current with technology releases, and do so with less staff, budget and technical expertise. Beyond any one particular app, ArcGIS Solutions shows patterns of apps working together to represent complete workflows - for example, Patrick described how he pairs Collector for ArcGIS with his Polling Place app to provide up-to-date wait time information.
- Mobile Workflows - Many people are familiar with at least one of the apps that Esri has for field data collection (like Collector for ArcGIS), but might not realize that there is a suite of apps that support a complete workflow for field operations. Increasingly, governments not only need to collect data, but may also need to plan for a field project, manage and track staff, navigate and route crews, and maintain oversight into the operations. Each of these needs can be addressed with specific apps that work in conjunction with each other. I spent quite a bit of time at FedGIS introducing people to Workforce for ArcGIS, which offers simple tools for work assignments, worker tracking and more. For local governments, this fits really well into many workflows like inspections, service requests and more. Add Navigator for ArcGIS to the mix, and you've got turn-by-turn directions to help increase efficiency, as Atlantic County NJ has done with their Meals on Wheels program.
There were many other topics that seemed to resonate with local government attendees I spoke with (3D and analytics, for example), and I think many people got a lot out of attending the conference. Jack Martin, CIO for Anne Arundel County MD described what is probably commonplace among government GIS professionals - there are diminishing budgets available for conferences and travel, so having an event close-by is appreciated. Though the FedGIS remains heavily focused on federal government, it provides value to Jack in his IT support role. He sees it from the perspective of a CIO whose IT group supports 29 different departments, each with their own lines of business and specific missions - which, when you think about it, is not unlike a federal agency.
If you represent local government and attended FedGIS, we'd love to hear your feedback - please feel free to comment, below.