GIS Data and Church

So you have the BIG idea that the Church or community needs to develop. Discuss that idea here. Maybe you just want to make a suggestion on a new forum topic. Let us know.
ericjonathansmith
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GIS Data and Church

Postby ericjonathansmith » Sun Oct 26, 2008 8:17 pm

I manage a GIS department for a local government agency in Idaho. I often help stake presidents and bishops with stake/ward boundary maps to assist them in their decisions. In the process, I've seen some of the maps generated by the church GIS department, which are awesome, but sometimes use outdated GIS data, probably because it is attained from secondary sources.

While geospatial data produced by the private sector (google, yahoo, etc) is readily available, unfortunately, it is in many cases, not as accurate as the data produced by the government sector (unless it is the U.S. Census, which is probably where google gets their road data).

I'm part of a team in Idaho that is working to create a standardized comprehensive road centerline database that is updated on a weekly basis from each of the sources of the maintenance (county and city GIS or public works offices). This data is freely available for download at http://insideidaho.org/geodata/frameworkPilot/transportation/explore.htm. There are many other free datasets there that may be useful to church mapping departments. I think programs exist like this in other states as well.

Always looking for better GIS data.
Eric J Smith

ericjonathansmith
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GIS Follow-up

Postby ericjonathansmith » Mon Oct 27, 2008 4:58 am

By-the-way, would there be a way for the church to disseminate ward/stake boundary vector data for those who have the ability to make customized maps?
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Postby RossEvans » Mon Oct 27, 2008 8:02 am

ericjonathansmith wrote:While geospatial data produced by the private sector (google, yahoo, etc) is readily available, unfortunately, it is in many cases, not as accurate as the data produced by the government sector (unless it is the U.S. Census, which is probably where google gets their road data).


Google (and Microsoft) generally get their base map data from commercial suppliers, which vary by country. For the United States, Google now uses Tele Atlas; Microsoft uses NAVTEQ. In my experience, both are superior to Census TIGER base maps, although Census is in the process of correcting and updating TIGER.

The Google and Microsoft tools are used by the Church for the web display on maps.lds.org. Internally, I believe, the Church houses its own data in ESRI databases. I don't know what the sources are.

ericjonathansmith wrote:I'm part of a team in Idaho that is working to create a standardized comprehensive road centerline database that is updated on a weekly basis from each of the sources of the maintenance (county and city GIS or public works offices). This data is freely available for download at http://insideidaho.org/geodata/frameworkPilot/transportation/explore.htm. There are many other free datasets there that may be useful to church mapping departments. I think programs exist like this in other states as well.


Hooray for those states and localities that do provide good public-domain GIS data for download. My own city (Austin TX) also publishes excellent data in shapefile format. I think such localities are more an exception than the rule right now, but thing are getting better. Nationally, the Census TIGER data is being corrected, so we may end up with a decent public-domain resource there in a couple of years.

ericjonathansmith wrote:By-the-way, would there be a way for the church to disseminate ward/stake boundary vector data for those who have the ability to make customized maps?


Someone from a stake posted here a few months ago that they had asked the Church GIS department for its internal boundary files for the stake, but the Church would not do so. (Sorry, can't seem to find a link right now.)

As an interested outside observer, I believe that the Church will be releasing some downloadable GIS data sometime as part of its member-mapping projects online. I do not know about file formats, but shapefiles and KML would be nice. I do expect that the Church will be displaying unit boundaries online somehow. (Joel Dehlin, the CIO, has confirmed that.) However, I don't know if downloads will include the boundaries.

I built my own boundary files for our ward, using the public-domain basemap layers within my GIS application, and using the official Church map in PDF form as a guide.

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Mikerowaved
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Postby Mikerowaved » Mon Oct 27, 2008 1:14 pm

boomerbubba wrote:Someone from a stake posted here a few months ago that they had asked the Church GIS department for its internal boundary files for the stake, but the Church would not do so. (Sorry, can't seem to find a link right now.)

The city of Layton, UT chose to align their emergency districts and areas with stake and ward boundaries. One of the first things I noticed when I started helping them with emergency communications is their district and area maps were sorely out of date. (With 13 stakes, that can easily happen.) They petitioned the Church for updated stake and ward boundary maps explaining what the purpose was for and the Church complied with the request under strict terms that it only be used for the intended purpose.

I can't see why a stake authority wouldn't be granted a similar request for their area of responsibility.
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Postby RossEvans » Mon Oct 27, 2008 2:03 pm

Mikerowaved wrote:I can't see why a stake authority wouldn't be granted a similar request for their area of responsibility.


It does not make intuitive sense to me, either. But that is the experience CuriousGIS reported in June.

bplewe-p40
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Church GIS

Postby bplewe-p40 » Sun Nov 02, 2008 1:33 pm

There are good reasons why the Church doesn't release boundaries and such freely. I won't go into details (because I've only heard secondhand and will probably get the details wrong), but there have been troubles before when this information got into the open, with everything from stalkers getting target lists to nonmembers getting upset that they have been assigned to a mormon ward to Muslim countries getting upset that they have been assigned to a mission.

Yes, there are those who could safely use this data for appropriate uses and safeguard it, but in the past, the simplest policy has been to say no to everyone. I have gotten the impression recently that they may be rethinking that, trying to develop technologies and policies to allow for more sharing of information (GIS, etc.) in a restricted and secure way. But I don't think they are there yet.

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Postby RossEvans » Sun Nov 02, 2008 4:19 pm

bplewe wrote:There are good reasons why the Church doesn't release boundaries and such freely. I won't go into details (because I've only heard secondhand and will probably get the details wrong), but there have been troubles before when this information got into the open, with everything from stalkers getting target lists to nonmembers getting upset that they have been assigned to a mormon ward to Muslim countries getting upset that they have been assigned to a mission.


But the boundaries themselves are not secret. CHQ disseminates copies of them in print and PDF form to local units for the asking -- without imposing any special policy restrictions on sharing those visual formats with members. The question above related purely to releasing that same data to local leaders in GIS formats to facilitate their automated use.

From what has been said by CHQ officials, we can expect that boundaries will be published online somehow in the near future. The LUWS system seems a likely platform, because the web sites are protected by authenticated login to local members. Also offering a download of GIS boundary formats to leaders and/or members is a separate question, but they already are trusted with downloads of membership rosters. Once anyone can eyeball the boundaries, it is easy for them to create GIS maps for themselves, it's just a question of marginal effort and precision. And for any given address, the public maps.lds.org site already publishes the unit to which that address belongs.

Really the biggest policy question that will remain open will be whether to publish boundary files spanning multiple units -- for example, all the boundaries for an area, a state or a country. I can see how that functionality might be withheld, just as the ability to view or download member data across stakes is withheld today.

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marianomarini
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Postby marianomarini » Mon Nov 03, 2008 11:37 am

Maybe I'm out of topic but I link GIS acronymum to a free geographic world wide databse. Is it this that you are speaking of?
I look at the map of my city and I found a wide read that doen't yet exist. There is a big debate also about it here. We are not sure that it take place sometimes and it is already on the map!
This are proprietary maps. Gis is different!
Another useful feature of GIS is the possibility to draw geographic boundary using road time-cost.
Branch and Stake boundary can be draw according with a small timecost istead of geographic boundary.
La vita è una lezione interminabile di umiltà (Anonimo).
Life is a endless lesson of humility (Anonimous).

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Postby RossEvans » Mon Nov 03, 2008 12:26 pm

marianomarini_vi wrote:Maybe I'm out of topic but I link GIS acronymum to a free geographic world wide databse. Is it this that you are speaking of?
I look at the map of my city and I found a wide read that doen't yet exist. There is a big debate also about it here. We are not sure that it take place sometimes and it is already on the map!
This are proprietary maps. Gis is different!
Another useful feature of GIS is the possibility to draw geographic boundary using road time-cost.
Branch and Stake boundary can be draw according with a small timecost istead of geographic boundary.


GIS is just a general acronym for a broad technology called geographic information systems. Full-featured GIS systems generally combine map opbjects with database objects. Some other software that is not so full-featured might allow viewing of GIS-formatted map files, without the intelligence of a full GIS system.

There are lots of file formats, but one common open standard is the "shapefile" format with a .shp extension. Another popular map format, with robust display features but more limited database use, is the KML format. Many GIS-formatted files are proprietary. Some are free. That mostly depends on who creates them.

What this thread is mostly discussing is the availablity of Church boundary files in various GIS formats.

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MorettiDP
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Postby MorettiDP » Mon Nov 03, 2008 2:53 pm

How we can request units maps from Church HQ in PDF format (for official Church use?). It came by E-mail?
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