Mapping a Strategy for GIS

Report 248_GIS

Report #248, October 2019


California should strengthen its use of geographic information systems, or GIS, by creating a GIS Advisory Council and designating a full-time Geographic Information Officer, according to a report today by the Little Hoover Commission, the state’s independent oversight agency.

The report, “Mapping a Strategy for GIS,” also recommends that the state employ GIS technology to evaluate regional disparities in funding and the delivery of state services.

“The state that has given birth to technologies that have changed the world should be at the forefront of GIS use,” said Commission Chairman Pedro Nava. “But too often, our state government hasn’t taken advantage of the astonishing capabilities of GIS.”

The report notes that many state agencies currently use GIS, which connects data about people and programs with location-based information such as street addresses or zip codes, allowing officials to see critical connections and patterns. For example, GIS is used by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to respond to disasters, by Caltrans to monitor highway improvement projects, and by the Employment Development Department to monitor and address insurance fraud.

The Commission found, however, that the state’s use of GIS is inconsistent, and lacks centralization and coordination. To gain full advantage of this important technology, the Commission makes three recommendations: that the state designate a state Geographic Information Officer to coordinate projects, promulgate standards, and manage shared resources; that the state create a GIS Advisory Council of governmental leaders and other stakeholders; and that the state use GIS to evaluate regional disparities in funding and the delivery of services.

“Due to the size and diversity of California, stark differences exist among our many regions,” said Commission Vice Chairman Sean Varner. “GIS is a valuable resource that California can utilize as an ideal tool for evaluating those differences, including how the state addresses funding inequities and fairly allocates funds for services across California.”

The Little Hoover Commission is an independent state agency charged with recommending ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of state programs. The Commission’s recommendations are submitted to the Governor and the Legislature for their consideration and action. The GIS report is available at

Previous Studies

A Customer-Centric Upgrade for California Government
(Report #229, October 2015)

A New Legacy System: Using Technology to Drive Performance
(Report #193, October 2008)

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