2020 URISA Exemplary Systems in Government Award Recipients Announced

Des Plaines, IL (August 17, 2020) The URISA Exemplary Systems in Government (ESIG) awards were first presented in 1981 to recognize outstanding achievement by government agencies in the use of geospatial information technology. This exemplary achievement is defined as the effective application of computer technologies and geospatial data that can be measured in terms of improved government service delivery and increased benefits to citizens. The award competition is international in nature and open to all public agencies at the local, regional, state/provincial and federal levels.

Since their commencement almost 40 years ago, the ESIG awards have gained considerable prestige and there is always substantial publicity given to the winning systems – both by URISA as well as the nominating jurisdictions concerned.  In many cases, the awards have been the key to enabling further budget support to be provided for the systems, as well as in-house acknowledgment and acceptance of their excellence.

Nominations are made in one of two categories: Enterprise Systems which are used by multiple agencies, and Single Process Systems which are used by one agency.  Nominations are required to address specific award criteria associated with system design, system implementation; organizational impact and use of resources to create the system.

The number of nominations received varies from year to year and in 2020 a total of eight nominations were received – no doubt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Four entries were received in the two categories.

A volunteer ESIG Awards Committee is formed each year to handle the submission judging tasks and this year there were 16 people serving on the committee, with one of those acting as chair ( Dr. Gary Hunter, URISA GIS Hall of Fame Inductee, 2006). 

In 2020, all entries were independently reviewed by four assessors in the first round of judging, and the highest scoring entries progressed to the second round of the competition where they were each reviewed by another eight assessors.  As a result, each entry in the final round of judging received 12 independent scores and the average score for each submission was then calculated to determine the winners in each category and the close runners-up which would merit a distinguished system prize.  Accordingly, the final results of the 2020 ESIG Awards are:

Single Process Systems

  • Winner:  City of Phoenix Street Transportation Department – Interactive Pavement Maintenance Dashboard
    Submitted by: Curtis Pulford, GIS Coordinator, City of Phoenix – Street Transportation Department, Phoenix, Arizona   
  • Distinguished System: Town of Flower Mound, Texas – Citizen Camera Program
    Submitted by: Nicole Dogan, GISP, Senior GIS Analyst, Town of Flower Mound, Texas  

Enterprise Systems

  • Winner: Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department – Enterprise GIS Portal Implementation
    Submitted by: Danny Thorpe, Systems Administrator III, Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department, West Palm Beach, Florida 
  • Distinguished System: Maryland National Capital Park & Planning Commission – PGAtlas
    S ubmitted by: Michael Shean, GISP, GIS Supervisor, Maryland National Capital Park & Planning Commission, Upper Marlboro, Maryland 

The following summaries of the two winning submissions are taken directly from the judges’ comments on the respective entries.

Single Process Winner:  City of Phoenix Street Transportation Department – Interactive Pavement Maintenance Dashboard

The City of Phoenix has developed a pavement management application to help design and implement an effective five-year maintenance program that makes best use of the available funds.  The application has also enabled excellent communication between the city and its taxpayers by helping to illustrate how funds are being used to improve the city’s streets.  Additionally, city staff have leveraged the application to streamline their workflows, with the result that the application has helped the City achieve its Accelerated Pavement Maintenance Program by allowing it to triple its annual paving output over previous years.

Not only does the process promote citizen engagement, but crowd-sourcing the data has enabled citizens to share their concerns and later see the resulting impacts. Crowd-sourcing has also saved the City significant resources in attempting to gather some of the information itself (such as reporting pavement problems). Additionally, the application operates in both the English and Spanish languages which ensures good accessibility for the Phoenix community.

The deployment of desktop and mobile versions of the application has helped increase the overall user experience, especially since so many people now access their information via mobile devices. There is a very nice use of images in the GIS story map to make the topic of street maintenance more understandable to the uninitiated, and there is a nice dashboard too that doesn’t need instructions to figure out how to use it.

The application has changed the way the City interacts with its internal departments by sharing out vital information that used to be difficult to access to allow for better and more efficient planning of new projects – with the result that far less time is spent by staff researching the fundamental information they need for their work. However, its greatest impact is considered to be the way it has changed how the City communicates with the public.

In summary, this is considered to be an outstanding application.  It has a very focused purpose and has demonstrated significant ROI ranging from the engagement it has fostered through to the internal government efficiency it has created, as well as spreading the awareness of the power and value of GIS throughout the organization.  The application was well thought out and planned, using the right technology and embracing the end-user community and crowd sourcing.  It is a great example of GIS not only leading but also changing how municipal business gets done.

Enterprise System Winner:  Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department – Enterprise GIS Portal Implementation

Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department designed and implemented its Enterprise GIS Portal to centrally distribute and manage its infrastructure access, its web applications, access to as-built documents and system administration. In addition, it made the major change from its first-generation GIS to the adoption of new generation, innovative GIS technology that is streamlined, web-based and user-friendly.

The County needed to move to a better system that was available both online and 24/7 every day of the year, so that real time changes to the water system could be easily viewed by users in both the field and office.  This is quite different to the previous system that did not provide automatic data updates to its many users. However, with the new system they see now real time changes as they occur, and these are available without the need for separate data downloads.  Clearly, the new portal is a great leap forward from the previous, older GIS technology – making data more readily available to a wider audience of users. 

The benefits of having a portable, digital solution are evident in terms of accessibility and streamlining of processes.  The portal eliminates the ‘silo-effect’ and allows any person in the organization to gather data independently, thereby creating a self-sustaining system of autonomy.  The asset savings are also notable, with far less need for desktop/hardware support and the elimination of time-consuming manual synchronization of datasets across the organization.

The number of different departments that were able to leverage the enterprise portal is exemplary, and even departments that would not usually think spatially to solve a problem can now often find the answers they need with relative ease. One of the biggest impacts is in the cross referencing of data to identify future problems with water main breaks, and it would seem the portal has transformed the way water utilities will be managed in the future – transforming themselves from 'fire-fighting' to proactive spatial tracking of incidents and historical issues.

Overall, it is considered to be a well thought-out and enacted system that has had a major impact on many departments.  The ability to directly access real-time data is essential in such an agency and the savings in staff time and effort are also significant.  In summary, this is an excellent example of an enterprise system that is modernizing information delivery, business processes and improving the overall effectiveness of an agency.

The accomplishments will be recognized during GIS-Pro 2020.  In addition, each system may be highlighted in an upcoming URISA webinar series.

To review the winning submissions for this year’s ESIG Awards, visit  http://www.urisa.org/awards/exemplary-systems-in-government/ .

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