A leapfrog opportunity
Despite the digital revolution, many public works departments are still in the paper age. Typically, these departments serve smaller communities and have yet to adopt GIS technology for a variety of reasons, including cost and complexity. The steps in implementing a traditional GIS include buying a system; converting paper basemaps; adding infrastructure layers such as roads, pipes, and wires; building applications; and training users, all of which is often too resource intensive. Cloud-based GIS removes these barriers.
Conversely, most large public works departments, with their larger budgets and access to IT resources, have implemented GIS for well-documented reasons including the ability to automatically update geospatial databases and the opportunity to share digital resources throughout the city. However, these departments have been cautious in embracing cloud technology, with security being a primary concern.
GIS in the cloud is the future for geospatial computing. With ready-to-use basemaps and imagery available over the Internet, the cloud computing platform provides low entry costs and high security, and it is available when you need it.
I propose that this is the perfect time for those public works departments in smaller communities to leapfrog their bigger brethren. With cloud computing, they do not have to make the investment in IT services or the paradigm shift in computing architectures to make use of the powerful capabilities available to them with a GIS.
Because of many reasons, including scalability, flexibility, availability, and security, using GIS services in the cloud is an inevitable step for public works departments, regardless of their size. Cloud computing will allow smaller departments to transition their paper-based systems to GIS, while larger departments can further expand their GIS capabilities.
The bottom line is that all public works departments should now be poised to move to a cloud-based GIS so that they can do more with less.