In the past two decades, mapping technologies have revolutionized many industries, but the geospatial wave has largely left rural communities behind. Thanks to new web-based tools and expanding broadband access, remote areas are poised to leverage the power of digital mapping. Rural is the final frontier in the geospatial revolution.
When we founded the GIS Service Center at the University of Maine at Machias in 2005, urban municipalities around the US were adopting emerging geospatial solutions. Cities began to use GIS in planning. They hosted web-based tax parcel maps linked to searchable databases. Urban water utilities began to manage their networks and maintenance fleets with sophisticated tracking systems. These powerful technologies, ubiquitous today, played a crucial role in helping urban regions weather the recession and become more efficient.
By contrast, in 2005 in our rural region of Down-east Maine, all towns were using paper tax maps. Many kept property records on index cards. Broadband was scarce. Geospatial technology had made some inroads in local industries: Precision agriculture was widely used in potato farms, and high tech GPS units helped lobstermen maximize their catch.