Government spatial data is dispersed and hard to access
As one of the largest data collectors in the country, the Australian Government has a wealth of knowledge across a plethora of organisations, departments, and functions. However, pre-2014, there was no centralised method for organisations, business, and members of the public to access this critical information.
Spatial data is particularly significant, as it encompasses environmental, infrastructure, social and economic, ocean, transport, energy and more. Enabling access to this information collected across local and state government can enable the discovery of new insights, streamline services, improve processes and increase efficiencies.
Building the NationalMap
Working for the Department of Communications and the Arts (now currently managed by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet) and in partnership with Geoscience Australia, CSIRO's Data61 aimed to collate rich but dispersed information into an easily searchable, viewable and fully customisable map-based view.
NationalMap is an open framework platform that connects directly to government agency data servers using open protocols and open data formats. The platform draws spatial data from data.gov.au, the Australian Government's data aggregation project.
NationalMap currently provides access to over 13,000 data sets federated from more than 50 data custodians from all levels of government across Australia.
This plethora of data includes broadband coverage, surface water locations, electoral boundaries, forest fire records, population estimates, public transport routes, oil and gas pipeline locations, and more.
Delivering this volume of data into the hands of the community, software developers and industry enables innovation and boosts government and industry productivity. In 2021, NationalMap has reached more than 30,000 user sessions per month, meeting user’s needs for geospatial data and the insight it unlocks for a wide range of activities and benefits.
These include enabling diagnostic tasks, facilitating research dissemination, supporting private and commercial activities, enabling knowledge acquisition regardless of level of tech literacy, and communicating information and insight broadly for data driven decision making.
NationalMap has been used as a framework to create custom mapping and geospatial data solutions, including the Australian Renewable Energy Agency's infrastructure mapping platform (AREMI), the National Environmental Information Infrastructure (NEII) for the Bureau of Meteorology, and the Northern Australia Map for Austrade. National Drought Map is another example. Developed to bring together information that helps monitor conditions and deliver support to drought-affected areas that need it most, the platform was created in 2020 in partnership with the Joint Agency Drought Taskforce.
In 2021, NationalMap has reached more than 30,000 user sessions per month, meeting user’s needs for geospatial data and the insight it unlocks for a wide range of activities and benefits. These include enabling diagnostic tasks, facilitating research dissemination, supporting private and commercial activities, enabling knowledge acquisition regardless of level of tech literacy, and communicating information and insight broadly for data driven decision making.
Based on these usage patterns, 2021 projections of the net benefits to the Australian economy delivered by TerriaJS, the open source software powering NationalMap, are just over $70 Million for the 10-year period to 2030, representing a benefit cost ratio of 9.1 (Centre for International Economics, 2021).
Today National Map is managed by Geoscience Australia (GA) in collaboration with CSIRO's Data61 for software development and data management. This is continuing the legacy of excellence in innovation and digital enablement of founding imitative partners, which included the Department of Communications and the Arts, the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet (PM&C) and the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA).