It looks that Google is finally making some progress in Australia with selling its GIS enterprise solutions to government clients. The first, and for quite some time the only public sector user of Google technology was NT government but just in the last few months three other State governments succumbed to Google’s charms. In particular, Western Australian Land Information System (WALIS) is upgrading its GIS capabilities with Google Maps Engine platform and has already started serving some data in OGC compliant web service standards.
Earlier this month the NSW Land & Property Information (LPI) released NSW Globe, which allows displaying a range of State data in Google Earth, and in the last few days Queensland’s Department of Natural Resources and Mines released its version as Queensland Globe - with almost identical list of datasets.
It is good that more and more data is made accessible for preview in a public domain. Let’s hope that these initiatives are only a beginning and will lead to more investment into a proper infrastructure to serve the data to third party applications.
Displaying data on a map is so passé. It was a thrilling functionality a decade ago but these days, in order to make a real impact, the data has to be put in context of tasks that community and business undertake on regular basis. Which is anything from looking up bus timetable to researching optimal delivery routes, from searching properties for purchase to collecting business intelligence for marketing purposes, etc.
Google has already recognised that tools it offers cannot deliver all those solutions so the company is focusing its efforts on enabling linking of data served from Google infrastructure to open source tools like QGIS - to enable users performing more specialised spatial tasks.
Government agencies should ideally follow a similar strategy. The best return on all that data in State and federal vaults will be if application developers are allowed unencumbered access to it. Whether it is Google or ESRI or other technology facilitating the access is not that critical as long as there is a long term commitment to maintain it.
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