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National Land Parcel Data: A Vision for the Future
environment of more than 75 percent of the respondents. A few important trends were identified in the survey (PTI, 2003, p. 8):
On the horizon, GIS technology will become a key component of every government applications system. In addition to the visual analysis of data, a key driver for enterprise GIS applications is that location is the connection point for the interoperability of disparate systems.
77 percent of respondents use GIS technology to view aerial photography.
70 percent use GIS technology to support property record management and taxation services.
57 percent of respondents use GIS technology to provide public access information.
41 percent use GIS technology to support capital planning, design, and construction.
38 percent use GIS technology to support permitting services.
38 percent use GIS to support emergency preparedness and response activities.
33 percent use GIS to support computer aided response activities.
However, despite this growth in the use of GIS, it is questionable whether many small local governments can attract employees to some environments at existing salary ranges. Only 23 percent of the respondents to a 2003 geospatial industry salary survey by URISA were employed by counties, and only 12.7 percent were employed in the assessor’s office where the vast majority of parcel data are created and maintained (URISA, 2003).3 An FGDC state survey found that attrition of GIS-skilled workers in smaller counties has become a big issue because the mapping person may not be making much more than minimum wage (Stage and von Meyer, 2006a, p. 18). Alternatively, GIS workers may be required to carry out multiple duties other than geospatial work. In a field that is in high demand, once people have gained skills, they often move to higher-paying jobs elsewhere. These findings suggest that workforce issues may be greatest at the primary source for parcel data creation and maintenance. In medium- and smaller-sized counties where personnel fulfill many functions there is little time available for parcel conversion work. Conversion and maintenance work is time consuming and requires attention to detail, and so is a risky area for multitasking.
A digital divide clearly exists with respect to the management of land parcel data. The lack of current GIS, database, and network support is particularly acute in rural areas. This isolation also pertains to a support network of other practitioners and colleagues engaged in similar work. A social support network of practitioners can often learn quickly from each other when access is easy. In rural areas an e-mail list server or technologies such as NetMeeting or GOTO Meeting (Citrix) can help but are less effective than face-to-face learning from neighbors.
5.5 POLITICAL CHALLENGES
In addition to technical, financial, legal, and organizational challenges, a national program of coordinating land parcel data faces many political obstacles. In fact, the lack of political will may be the most difficult hurdle of all.
5.5.1 Return on Investment
It is difficult to calculate a clear financial return on investment for developing a national program for parcel data. It is much easier to estimate the costs of a national parcel data set than to quantify its benefits. Some tangible benefits can be quantified, such as improved tax compliance and efficiencies within specific government agencies and private sector industries. However, these issues are unlikely to be persuasive by themselves when measured against the substantial cost to develop a national system. The real benefits of a nationally integrated system accrue to larger groups and to