WIGICC (the Wisconsin Geographic Information Coordination Council) approved a final report of its accomplishments and recommendations at its meeting on August 19, 2010. Publication of the report is a requirement as set forth in WIGICC’s Charter. The report documents the progress, actions, and accomplishments of WIGICC since its inception in September 2008, and identifies recommendations for ongoing activities and for permanent establishment of the Council. The report re-emphasizes the continued importance of having a statewide council, with domain-specific representatives, focused on advancing Wisconsin’s geospatial concerns.
The overarching purpose of WIGICC is to give all stakeholders a voice in geospatial initiatives within the state. This model is considered a key criterion for successful geographic information coordination by the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) – the national organization most responsible for driving the creation of coordination councils in other states. This concept is strongly endorsed by federal agencies as well. WIGICC defines itself as a sustainable, stakeholder-governed, statewide organization that provides leadership and direction for the cooperative development and use of geographic information and technologies. WIGICC helps facilitate the delivery of public services, encourage economic development, and protect the public and the environment by improving the quality, accessibility, utility, and value of geographic information and technologies.
The report reassesses the interim nature of WIGICC as originally proposed in a January 2008 letter to the Department of Administration. The report recommends that the Council pursue formal establishment via legislative action. Specifically WIGICC should be made a permanent statewide council that advises the Wisconsin State Geographic Information Officer, the Wisconsin State Cartographer, the Governor’s Homeland Security Council, the Wisconsin Legislature, and others on public policy issues. The report further recommends that the interim Council be continued indefinitely until it can be made permanent.
The rationale for this recommendation is as follows.
First, having a statewide council is important. Councils exist in at least forty-five other states and are viewed as an essential component of a mature geospatial environment. The need for a statewide council is in fact widely accepted in Wisconsin, and was the first recommendation of the report, Wisconsin Location Matters, prepared under the guidance of the Wisconsin Land Information Association (WLIA) in 2007. Because of its comprehensive membership and statewide perspective, WIGICC is uniquely positioned to provide the statewide coordination necessary to fill this role.
Second, over the past two years, the interim Council has made significant progress toward permanent establishment, including creating teams, addressing policy issues, launching initiatives, and interacting with stakeholders. Further details of these activities are provided in the report. In terms of initiatives, WIGICC’s original goal was to choose one or two specific actions to pursue and resolve. However, given the large number of issues to address, and the need to resolve important internal administrative issues, the Council instead adopted a process of pursuing issues that had meaningful impact on the stakeholder network if individuals were available and willing to work to resolve them.
Third, and related the above commentary, lack of formal recognition has hampered the ability of WIGICC to be as productive as possible. For example, some stakeholders struggle to justify the dedication of personnel to the effort, question the authority of the Council, and doubt the long-term ability of the Council to effect positive change. These difficulties further underscore the need for WIGICC’s permanency and support. An interim and completely volunteer Council does not have the capacity to meet the stated needs for Wisconsin geospatial coordination.
The report recommends that WIGICC establish a team to work with legislators and others to draft legislation for WIGICC’s permanent establishment. Because WIGICC will be providing support for policy decisions regarding the use of geospatial technology in the state, and the legislature is the policy-making branch of the government, it is appropriate that WIGICC be established via legislation. As indicated through discussions with other states, this solution could take longer to adopt, but ultimately will be perceived as more permanent.
In addition to the recommendation for continuance, the report identifies a number of other important initiatives that the Council should continue to work on. These include: participate with the Department of Military Affairs to develop a statewide homeland security GIS strategic plan; pursue adoption of the U.S. National Grid for Wisconsin; foster additional activities under existing Communities of Practice; help initiate several new Communities of Practice; foster statewide data development efforts; and enhance outreach efforts, particularly to newly-emerging geospatial users.
The report recommends a continuation of the structure of the interim Council, with elected members representing major sectors and stakeholders in the geospatial community, including municipalities, counties, regional planning commissions, state agencies, the federal government, tribal agencies, the private sector, the non-profit sector, and academia. A diverse and broad-based representation is seen as essential for the success of WIGICC. The existing structure of the WIGICC was also designed to meet several characteristics that were identified as being important to the Wisconsin stakeholder community during the Council’s initial formation.
Two specific changes to representation on the Council are the inclusion of an additional representative to the municipalities sector, and the creation of three at-large representatives to be selected by the ex-officio members of the Council with Council approval. The addition of a municipalities representative reflects increased efforts in this sector across the state. The addition of the at-large members is designed to give the Council flexibility to accommodate perceived needs in terms of geographic diversity, statewide representation, specific domain representation, and subject matter expertise to address what are expected to be critical issues in the near term. A more transparent, open, and consistent nomination and election process for all Council members is currently being implemented for fall 2010 elections.
Details of WIGICC funding are beyond the scope of the report, as are details of the relationship between WIGICC and the Wisconsin Land Information Program (WLIP), the Land Information Officers’ Network (LION), and the Wisconsin Land Information Association (WLIA). The report indicates that the Council will develop an appropriate funding model that addresses the long-term sustainability of WIGICC.
WIGICC is uniquely positioned to assist in improving the quality, accessibility, utility, and value of geographic information and technologies. Because of its comprehensive membership and statewide perspective, WIGICC can provide the statewide collaboration and cooperation necessary for making the best use of geospatial resources in Wisconsin.