Putting government spatial data, which was previously difficult to access, into the hands of community, software developers and industry will act as a key enabler of innovation and boost to government and industry productivity.
Working for the Department of Communications (and working closely with partner Geoscience Australia), Data61 developed the software for the National Map initiative which makes it possible for everyone to benefit from the masses of data stored in government databases.
It is anticipated the availability of this data will prompt new businesses that can provide better services to the community. The National Map website will also act as an incentive to government to release more data, in a searchable and reusable format, into the community.
Based on the tenets of open data, the project is centred on providing an improved data infrastructure and visualisation capability for Australians to government data.
The aim of the project is to bring together dispersed information, which has been collected and produced by governments at all levels and in all functions, into an easily searchable, viewable and fully customisable map-based view.
The sort of searchable data that will be available is varied and includes data about broadband coverage, location of surface water and waste management facilities, proposed infrastructure developments such as gas lines, and electoral boundaries.
What is the technology?
The National Map has been designed to be a fully open framework. The web front-end connects directly to data servers at each government agency using open protocols and open data formats.
Any data viewed in the National Map can easily be directly accessed for use outside the National Map.
As well as getting data directly from government agencies, the National Map talks to data.gov.au so that any spatial data available in data.gov.au is available in the National Map.
The National Map is also now used as a previewer for spatial data sets in the data.gov.au site. The National Map website could eventually assist with the visualisation management of environmental information, such as ecosystems, koala movements, salinity and air quality.
Data61’s unique approach
Relying on the strong geospatial visualisation skills at Data61, the software uses Cesium, an open source WebGL virtual globe and map engine, which Data61 is co-developing with an international community of developers.
Data61 is also investigating building specialised National Map based products that cater to different verticals into the future.
The National Map is an initiative that Data61 has built for the Department of Communications. It has also partnered with Geoscience Australia on the project and worked with many other government agencies in providing access to their services.
The current version of the National Map is available as a ‘beta’ service at http://nationalmap.nicta.com.au and is used as a spatial data previewer at http://data.gov.au. It will become a fully supported production site (at a .gov.au address) towards the end of 2014.
Download the National Map brochure.