The Rhode Island Geographic Information System (RIGIS) is an consortium promoting the interests of Rhode Island’s geospatial community. This group of government and private organizations promotes the use of the latest technology as a means for managing and utilizing a comprehensive database of geographically-related (geospatial) information.The mission of RIGIS is to monitor, coordinate, and provide leadership for activities relating to the use of GIS technology within Rhode Island, to support initiatives that implement or use GIS technology, and to provide easy access to an extensive database of geospatial data for the state.By making this comprehensive collection of geospatial data widely available, RIGIS has become a leader in the United States as an open geospatial data clearinghouse.Through the promotion of a geographic information system (GIS), RIGIS is able to encourage individuals, private businesses, local and state government, K-12 institutions, and colleges and universities to invest in a staff with GIS expertise, the required technology (hardware and software) as a means for enhancing decision-making through the utilization of land-related information such as that provided by RIGIS. When used successfully, GIS can capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage and present all spatially related data in a variety of ways for any number of disciplines.

RIGIS Executive Committee

The Rhode Island Geographic Information System (RIGIS) Executive Committee provides policy guidance, oversight, and coordination of the collective efforts of organizations in Rhode Island using GIS technology.It seeks to coordinate data development, adopt technical standards, set distribution policy for GIS products, promote the use of GIS, and provide information and assistance to users. The Committee does not have authority over RIGIS participants but reaches decisions by consensus. Quarterly meetings are held throughout the year.The RIGIS Coordinator at the Rhode Island Department of Administration/Statewide Planning Program provides staff support and acts as liaison for RIGIS within the state, the northeast region, and nationally. Member and partner organizations also contribute, particularly by working conjunction with individual RIGIS Executive Committee Working Groups. The Committee is not funded as a separate unit of state government.Items Acted Upon Include:

  • Review & update of the data distribution system.
  • Formulation of a strategic plan for RIGIS.
  • Monitoring state, regional and national GIS activities.
  • Participation in a regional data clearinghouse.
  • Advise development of a state metadata clearinghouse.
  • Acquisition of new data sets for Rhode Island.

The most up-to-date list of RIGIS Executive Committee members currently available can be found here. Past and upcoming RIGIS Executive Committee meeting agendas are available from the Rhode Island Secretary of State website.

RIGIS History

The Director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) started the precursor to the RIGIS in 1985. He did so by initiating an agreement between that state agency and the University of Rhode Island (URI) to establish a GIS for the management and analysis of environmental data in Rhode Island. The RI Department of Transportation (RIDOT), the RI Statewide Planning Program, and the RI Solid Waste Management Corporation (now RI Resource Recovery Corporation) joined this effort shortly thereafter, each supporting the concept of a unified, centrally managed spatially related data base. Overall coordination was accomplished through an informal committee of top level management from each of these five organizations meeting on an ad hoc basis. Technical management of the data base resided at the University of Rhode Island. The RIDEM provided all funding for operations at the Environmental Data Center (URI/EDC) at the University through 1989.The RIDEM provided a system coordinator from within that agency until 1989. This person organized GIS related activities within RIDEM, and acted as a staff liaison person, primarily between the RIDEM and the URI/EDC. The coordinator also provided staff support for an ad hoc inter-agency management committee. The Solid Waste Management Corporation funded the system coordinator from 1989 through 1991 using a contracted consultant to fill this role. This coordinator was supported by staff and facilities at the Department of Administration’s Division of Planning. Duties included liaison functions between the four state agencies, (RIDEM, RIDOT, RISWMC and RIDOA-DOP), and the University of Rhode Island, as part of staff support functions for the RIGIS Executive Committee, the successor to the previous ad hoc group. In 1991, a GIS Manager position was established at the RIDOA, Division of Planning. This person was funded from within that Division’s operating budget and assumed the duties of the RIGIS Coordinator. Responsibilities were expanded to include administration of the data distribution system, and liaison among public and private sector organizations with interests in GIS and related technologies.From the beginning of development of GIS in Rhode Island in 1985, each of the primary four state government organizations involved supported their own internal GIS efforts. Similar methods for internal operations were employed at the Environmental Data Center at the URI. Funding through grants on specific projects from the agencies assisted in the development and operations of the EDC Laboratory. This included the purchase of computer hardware and software, the assignment of operating personnel, and funding for data development for information applicable to each agencies’ or institution’s needs. Realizing the benefits of a collective informational source, these organizations contributed their data into a common RIGIS database. Early on, the Rhode Island office of the USDA/SCS (now NRCS) and the Narragansett Bay Project also significantly contributed to the data base development effort. Initially the RIGIS database was housed at the Environmental Data Center at URI. Until 1991 the EDC/URI used internal staff to perform data base management functions including assimilation of data, cataloging and distribution. The staff positions were funded through contractual arrangements with the RIDEM and by grants awarded by the RISWMC. Due to shortfalls at the RIDEM in 1990 and 1991, the University was forced to contribute funds from its own budget to partially support this effort. The URI/EDC ceased data base management functions in 1991, and these responsibilities were, by default, assumed by the RIGIS Coordinator at Statewide Planning. At that time, all external data distribution duties were also shifted to the Division of Planning.

Legislative Establishment

In 1990, legislation was introduced and passed by the state legislature to modify and amend the General Laws of Rhode Island to include language pertaining to a state wide geographic information system. Chapter 42-11-2-(v) which is focused on the RI Department of Administration now states that the Department shall have the powers and duties to “devise, formulate, promulgate, supervise and control a comprehensive and coordinated statewide information system”…that …”may include a Rhode Island geographic information system”. Under Chapter 42-11-10-(f)-(6) pertaining to the Statewide Planning Program, the State Planning Council will “establish and appoint members to an executive committee consisting of major participants of a Rhode Island geographic information system with oversight responsibility for its activities.” This Chapter also states “In order to ensure the continuity of the maintenance and functions of the geographic information system, the general assembly may annually appropriate such sum as it may deem necessary to the department of administration for its support.” Furthermore, this Chapter states under 42-11-10-(g)-(3) that “the Division of Planning shall manage and administer the Rhode Island geographic information system of land related resources, and shall coordinate these efforts with other state departments and agencies, including the University of Rhode Island, which shall provide technical support and assistance in the development and maintenance of the system and its associated data base.”The same legislative package added language to the General Laws for the University of Rhode Island under Chapter 16-32-30 whereby, the University was “authorized and empowered to establish in connection with the University and within the Department of Natural Resource Sciences a geographic information system laboratory with suitable facilities for developing and maintaining a level of scientific and technical expertise in the use of computer technology in the management of land-related natural resources. This will include maintaining a statewide data base of land related economic, physical, cultural, and natural resources and providing for controlled access of this data base to the university community; other state, municipal and federal departments and agencies; and the general public…The University shall cooperate with and provide technical assistance to the Division of Planning of the Department of Administration in the management of the statewide geographic information system and shall advise other state, municipal and federal departments and agencies and the general public in its use.” A separate section addresses the University’s authorization to fund the GIS laboratory under 16-32-31. Appropriations for geographic information system laboratory. – “The general assembly may annually appropriate such sum as it may deem necessary for maintaining the geographic information system laboratory within the department of natural resource sciences, and the state controller is hereby authorized and directed to draw his or her orders upon the general treasurer for the payment of said sum, or so much thereof as may from time to time be required, upon receipt by the controller of properly authenticated vouchers.”