Mapping website sets national benchmark

A local government geospatial expert has called on Australia’s councils to embrace Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to meet the nation’s growing demand for improved access to government information.

Darren Santer, the Spatial Information Coordinator for Gosford City Council in New South Wales, is a key force behind the acclaimed Gosford Electronic Mapping System (GEMS), a mapping website developed in partnership with location intelligence specialists Esri Australia, which provides Gosford residents with around the clock access to government information.

Speaking in Perth from the Local Government Managers Association (LGMA) Congress, Mr Santer said the meteoric rise of internet and mobile technologies has seen residents demand greater, faster access to local government data.

“While almost 80 percent of councils already use GIS technology in areas such as asset management and planning, many are just starting to realise its value as a community communication tool.”

Mr Santer said GIS technology has emerged as a valuable way for governments to be more transparent and accountable, by providing the public with immediate and user-friendly access to their information.

“The technology literally maps the geographic elements contained within government data, translating information into the visual format of an online map. Presenting information in this way makes it instantly accessible to any member of the community, regardless of their level of education or the language they speak.”

Mr Santer said that GEMS layers Gosford’s council data, such as planning and bushfire information, over an interactive, online map of the local government area.

“Our application provides the community with 24-hour access to the same information used by Council staff on a daily basis,” Mr Santer said.
“Members of the public can now bypass our customer service centre to obtain instant access to information pertaining to zoning, development applications and council services.

“The system has proved so successful in fulfilling the community’s requirements that the number of calls our customer service team receives has been cut in half.” 

Esri Australia Gov 2.0 specialist Jeremie Comarmond said GEMS was an example of best practice in government-citizen communications technology. “As one of the early advocates of GIS technology in this space, Gosford City Council have set a benchmark that has drawn significant interest from other government departments nation-wide,” Mr Comarmond said.

“In every state and territory, we’re seeing a trend of councils looking to GIS technology to transform the way they provide information to their community.”