Some day, perhaps in a year, Bibb County residents may be able to report a pothole with a simple cell phone application.
That app, or other apps, are part of a behind-the-scenes transformation about the location of stuff, and how information about that stuff gets used, inside the Bibb County government.
Known as geographic information systems, the software has been helping governments assess and plan everything from utility services to disaster responses.
Angela Brooks, who works with Bibb County’s geographic information systems, said it’s still far too early to tell which free cell phone apps the county could adopt.
The first change the public will probably see is a completely revised parcel viewer, which lets residents look at county tax maps and see how much homes in an area are worth. That data is used by a huge range of people, Brooks said, including real estate agents, homeowners looking at comparable properties’ tax assessments and people just being nosy.
But before the parcel maps work under the new system, county workers will have to shift their data into different storage formats and work on some basic things about the location of stores in a shopping mall, for instance. An entire shopping mall may be listed in county records with a single address, slowing down rescue crews if an emergency occurs; the county wants to fix those problems as it’s making other changes.
The new formats, known as the Local Government Data Model, mean Bibb County’s data will be stored in the same way as other governments’ information. Commissioners approved the switch in December.
The new data format is supposed to make it easy for Bibb County to use another government’s software, such as cell phone apps. Some of the available tools include an iPad app that lets code inspectors report problems while they’re still in the field, or help people find the nearest park or their voting station and information on their representatives.
Brooks said it’s not clear how difficult it will be to shift to the new formats that will make all the software possible.
“We’ve got to look at the data we’ve got and match it to their format,” she said.
Grant Faulkner, the acting director for information technology, said the county’s geographic information system efforts are still being evaluated, which will lead to a plan.
“Mobile apps are probably going to be a little more into the future,” he said.
Kevin Stewart, a business development manager with Alabama-based Geographic Information Services Inc., told Bibb County commissioners in December that other Georgia governments are moving toward the new standards. Stewart’s company is working on the geographic data projects with Bibb County and the Middle Georgia Regional Commission, which itself is also aiding Bibb County’s efforts.
“It’s a matter of time before your citizens want to take their iPhone and interface with your data,” Stewart told commissioners.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.