Case Study – Opening government data with the NationalMap

Summary

The NationalMap is an example of taking interoperable information in the form of geospatial data and harnessing it through systems and processes to add value to information. Through planning, design and integration the benefits of opening data and data sharing can be realised.

Introduction

The NationalMap is a public tool for accessing and mapping open data and users' private data. It supports the government's commitment to policy visualisation and open data, and has been designed with a focus on interoperability and open source code.

National ICT Australia (NICTA) developed the NationalMap for the Department of Communications and Geoscience Australia. It was developed as open source software using user-centered design methods.

The NationalMap is designed to:

  • Facilitate the opening of data by federal, state and local government bodies.
  • Provide easy access to authoritative and other spatial or spatially-referenced data to government, business and the public.
  • Provide an open framework of geospatial data services that supports commercial and community innovation.

The NationalMap provides a map-based view to data, but does not store any data. Selected data viewed on the map is typically accessed directly from the relevant government department or agency.

The open source software is available as a GitHub project. The web front-end uses NICTA’sTerriaJS software and connects directly to government data servers and the Australian government data site, data.gov.au, using open protocols and open data formats.

Enabling tool

The core platform, TerriaJS, initially developed by NICTA for the NationalMap, has subsequently been used to develop other spatial data viewing applications. One example is the Australian Renewable Energy Mapping Infrastructure (AREMI) platform owned by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

AREMI leverages the NationalMap to provide an open source, three-dimensional mapping platform that can convert and visually display information. It facilitates the gathering of spatial datasets relevant for the development of renewable energy projects in one location, at the same time, for context and examination.

AREMI works in any modern browser without plug-ins or specialist software on the user's computer. This enables a range of users to easily search and visualise data through AREMI for their particular purpose. Project developers are able to freely access spatial information such as ground and resource measurements and availability of existing information to assist with site identification. State and local governments can use the information to assist with environmental and regulatory planning approvals, as well as for tracking and promoting projects in their region. The platform also makes it easier for financiers and investors to ascertain the success of a proposed venture.

Standards and interoperability

The NationalMap requires data to be formatted in a particular way to be machine readable and presented spatially. As the NationalMap is the first of its kind for the Australian Government, the Department of Communications is continuing to work with agencies to assist with data formatting requirements and compatibility with Australian and international data standards. NICTA has produced the AusGEO CSV standard as a guide to provide consistent formatting. Further information is available from data.gov.au through their Toolkit.
Releasing high-value data is an iterative process which requires collaboration and communication with agencies to show the benefits of opening data and support useful data sharing. The range of information available on NationalMap will continue expanding for as long as the map is supported.

Website: www.nationalmap.gov.au

YouTube video: Introducing the NationalMap.

Contact details: Data Access Team, Data Policy Branch, Department of Communications (nationalmap@communications.gov.au)

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2016