Overview of the Hawaii Statewide Planning and Geographic Information System

The Hawaii Statewide Planning and Geographic Information System Program is authorized under Chapter 225M-2(b)(4)(B), Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS), as amended. This program is a multi-agency effort to establish and promote the use of geographic information system (GIS) technology in Hawaii State Government.

GIS’s are computerized mapping and information systems which are capable of combining spatial (mapped) data with associated attribute information to facilitate spatial data analyses for improved decision making. Mapped data (e.g. roads, streams, schools) and their associated attribute information (e.g. road name, stream flow volume, school enrollments) are converted to a computer-compatible form. This enables users to better and more efficiently assemble, store, manipulate and display geographically-referenced information. GIS’s allow efficient retrieval and analyses of these data, including the ability to overlay and combine different layers of information to perform functions such as suitability analyses, i.e. the appropriateness of a particular area to support a certain activity or land use. For more written information on GIS’s, visit other web sites, including, but not limited to the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) and the City and County of Honolulu. For those interested in hands-on presentations of GIS technology, private vendors hold periodic workshops–some for a fee, some for free– throughout the year to educate existing, new and potential users of GIS technology.

As directed in Chapter 225M-2(b)(4)(B), HRS, the Office of Planning (OP) within the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism is responsible for planning and coordinating the multi-agency State GIS Program. The Information and Communication Services Division (ICSD) of the Department of Accounting and General Services has been very supportive of this effort and is the agency responsible for computer system and networking planning, consultation and support. ICSD also operates and manages the centralized fileserver which houses the State’s database.

While GIS’s are widely recognized as being important tools for planning professionals, they are also very useful for a number of other professions which are dependent on the analysis of spatial data. These include fields including, but not limited to: resource management, health (medical and environmental quality applications) and demographic studies. Given the wide range of applications, a number of State agencies are either actively participating in the advancement of the system or have indicated an interest in joining this effort when resources become available. The State agencies which have an interest in this technology include the Departments of: Agriculture; Accounting and General Services; Business, Economic Development and Tourism; Defense; Education; Hawaiian Home Lands; Health; Human Services; Land and Natural Resources and Transportation.

One of the primary goals of the State GIS Program is to improve overall efficiency and effectiveness in government decision-making. In support of this goal, participating State agencies are developing, maintaining and sharing their respective databases and applications. The centralized database enables agencies to share information while reducing the development of redundant databases. The centralized database concept also helps standardize the information that is being analyzed by decision makers and establishes a means for collecting and distributing the best available databases.

As an emerging technology, GIS’s are being recognized for their versatility and the wide range of potential applications that they offer. As such, GIS’s are becoming integral tools for a number of government, private and non-profit organizations. While OP is responsible for integrating GIS activities within State government, OP and others are also interested in coordinating such activities with other Federal, County and private entities.