Local government CEOs are increasingly turning to GIS technology to help manage their highly-complex operating models.

Mobile capabilities, the use of public data, and cloud-based technologies, are empowering innovative modes of operation, providing new insights for government decision making, while also enabling enhanced data-driven processes.

Local governments have traditionally been early adopters of GIS – using these capabilities for various operational functions, as well as planning and analysis – pushing digital transformation with a geospatial component.

Collectively, Australia’s councils represent the largest user group of GIS technology in the country.

It’s not hard to see why. Councils are dealing with complex layers of information, most of which includes the variable of “location” at its core.

Efficient management and effective use of this data is being driven by community expectations for better targeting of spend, greater transparency and accountability, and a corresponding pressure to make information available to everyone in a timely fashion.

One thing is clear, many councils are breaking new ground in the ways they use their data to gain actionable insights and achieve more effective outcomes for their constituents – whether it’s using GIS to do things like verify crowdsourced data during an emergency, or to engage in two-way conversations with members of the public via smartphones.

From an administrative perspective, some of the key benefits for Australia’s local governments are gained through integration: whether that’s integrating GIS with core business systems; integrating departmental data silos; or integrating data across all levels of government.

By integrating GIS capabilities into core business systems such as SAP, Microsoft Office and IBM Cognos, users can leverage the technology to deliver valuable insights, yet in a way that’s non-disruptive to normal workflows.

In Australia, we are seeing integrated systems becoming a priority. For example, City of Gold Coast was the first organisation in Australia to achieve a fully-integrated, geo-enabled SAP implementation, and since then numerous groups around the country have followed suit.

Work like this shows that GIS is no longer considered a stand-alone system or add-on. It is fast becoming a critical technology for generating in-depth, contextual information via a single point of truth.

In a nationwide study conducted in 2013 to measure the role of GIS in local government, 68 per cent of respondents believed the value of GIS technology was widely understood in their organisations.

At the same time, 85 per cent of those surveyed said they were already accessing GIS capabilities across all departments council-wide.

As I see it, while the findings reflected the importance that GIS was playing for government levels below the office of the CEO, a broader understanding for how GIS could add value across an entire organisation had not yet percolated to the top.

Today, many organisations do understand the difference between GIS platforms and more rudimentary mapping applications.

Since the study was published, the role of technology within local government has continued to expand, especially in the way GIS is being leveraged for critical decision making.

On its current path of deployment, GIS technology has the potential to become the mechanism that unlocks the door to uninhibited collaboration between all layers of government.

While cross-government information sharing is considered one of the enduring challenges facing councils, the trend is toward multi-agency collaboration facilitated by GIS technology.

This highlights the extraordinary role location-based analytics can play in helping local governments make decisions involving complex sets of information.

They can achieve a better view of what their data means, and use it to predict outcomes for scenarios that involve their community obligations.

What is really exciting about current developments though, is that when it comes to GIS usage, where local government goes, the broader user community invariably follows.

Find out more about GIS in local government, or call 1800 870 750 to discuss your requirements with our local government specialists.

About the Author

Brett Bundock
Brett Bundock
Group Managing Director
Esri Australia, Brisbane
Brett is regarded as a market visionary and one of the Asia-Pacific region's most influential contributors to the spatial industry.

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