State funded GIS in Maine

I have the priviledge of sitting on the Maine Geolibrary Board for the great state of Maine.  We meet once each month to discuss State spending priorities for GIS investments.  Maine is a highly rural state with only about 2 million people mostly clustered along the coast and major rivers which means that we don't have a large populace that would generate much in the way of taxes that could be spend on infrastructure like GIS.  An additional complication is that in Maine we have not figured out the economies of scale that counties represent and so any GIS data development effort is REALLY local.

All that said, the GIS data and delivery systems provided by the State of Maine to its people, businesses, and government agancies represent a tremendous value.  Don't they?  In the US, we have a wonderful tradition of making government-developed spatial data available for free to citizens, business, and public agencies.  This policy delivers a huge amount of value to all of us each year.  Unfortunately, the real value that is returned from that investment is seldom analyzed or modeled.  I know of few, if any, studies that have been done to estimate the value of public investment in GIS data and systems and this creates real problems for those charged with the stewardship of these efforts.

As an industry, we need to do a much better job of documenting the value of geospatial technology and communicating that value to our public leaders.  People take for granted that when they dial 911  the fire fighters will respond to the right house, that they are being taxed on the right piece of property, and that MapQuest will route them properly to their house.  All of these capabilities benefit in some way from public investment in geospatial systems.  I wish I knew a good economist that could help me the value these systems represent to society.  If you know of any good economics studies that demonstrate the value of public investments in geospatial systems, please post a comment.