Indiana is one of only two states in the country to earn an “A+” for statewide GIS coordination in the current Geospatial Maturity Assessment (GMA). The National States Geographic Information Council (USGIC)–a 28-year-old organization founded to advance state-led geospatial coordination across the nation–performs the assessment every two years. This information is intended to assist state governments with setting goals, identifying peer states for collaboration, identifying areas requiring attention, and connecting with opportunities and resources. Completing the GMA also offers state governments a chance to reflect on their geospatial strategy, operations, and progress. This achievement is possible as the result of many people supporting a legacy of excellence in Indiana GIS in a wide variety of ways for nearly four decades.

The Polis Center significantly impacts Indiana’s excellent GIS coordination success, according to Polis Geoinformatics Director Jim Sparks. “Former Polis staff members John Buechler, Dave Coats, Matt McCormick, Shaun Scholer, and Jim Stout were each board members of the Indiana Geographic Information Council (IGIC) and contributed to IGIC workgroups and committees or served in elected positions,” he says. Four current Polis staff members are or have been IGIC board members. Jim Sparks served for a decade as Indiana’s first Geographic Information Officer and is the 2019 president of IGIC. Kevin Mickey, Polis Director of Professional Development and Geospatial Technology Education, is president-elect of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA).  Countless others at Polis have contributed by pushing the technical envelope of GIS in Indiana, making presentations at local and statewide GIS events, and mentoring.

“In a similar way, Polis projects have also contributed to the advance of GIS in Indiana,” says Sparks. “These include building service area maps for small town emergency responders, assisting the state with creating more accurate flood risk data, and analyzing social, economic, and health factors to report on Indiana food deserts, poverty, crime and violence, neighborhood profiles, and transit ridership in Marion County.” As Polis pursues its mission–“to work with our partners to define, measure, and actively improve community health, well-being, and resiliency”–it concurrently supports and advances the practice and coordination of GIS in Indiana.

The GMA grades the ability of states to successfully organize and coordinate effective geospatial programs that result in the creation and maintenance of critical state and federal framework GIS data layers. These layers include addresses, cadastre, elevation, orthoimagery, governmental units, hydrography and others. The GMA demonstrated empirically how remarkable Indiana is by evaluating such factors as:

  • State GIS leadership, Geographic Information Officer (GIO) or equivalent, and coordinating council. Indiana has both.
  • Authority of leadership. Indiana recognizes both GIO and the Indiana Geographic Information Council in state statute – the highest level of authorization acknowledged in the GMA.
  • Level of influence. Indiana GIS leadership has demonstrated its influence on state and federal policies, budgets, state technology, GIS data standards, and the ability to coordinate across all levels of government.
  • Funding sources. General funds through the Indiana Office of Technology, license fees, grants, state agency funds, and local government participation in the statewide ortho/LiDAR projects consistently fund Indiana GIS.
  • Strategic planning. GIO and IGIC strategic plans updated in the last five years.
  • Involvement of relevant stakeholders. Indiana’s GIO has been very deliberate about involving stakeholders from many sectors and across the state, and the composition and membership of IGIC’s board of directors is equally diverse.