The City of Devonport is located on the Mersey River in the heart of the North West Coast of Tasmania. With roughly 26,000 residents, the city is relaxed, yet progressive. Testimony to that is their new public facing online mapping website, which provides rate payers with crucial council information.
The map was built using Dekho, Esri Australia’s flagship geographic web application server. Dekho works with Devonport City Council’s (DCC) corporate systems to combine their vast amounts of data into one user-friendly web-based interface. By layering data across a map of Devonport, Dekho translates complex scenarios into relevant, clear visual presentations that can highlight things such as property information, town planning zones, cemetery plot information or public facility locations (like public toilets).
Dekho was configured and deployed for the Devonport City Council (DCC) by team members Margaret Muir (Assets Officer) and Hamish Murphy (Software Developer). We spoke with them to find out about the new system and what it does for their council and community…
EA: Hello to you both! So, tell us about your new mapping website that you built with Dekho?
Margaret Muir: Dekho is the interface for DCC’s interactive municipal map which is accessible via Council’s web site. Dekho is a powerful tool that allows users in the community to access Council’s data from a spatial perspective. It is the gateway to a bird’s eye view of our beautiful city.
EA: So how does it work?
MM: Dekho holds all the layers that Council uses to transmit spatial information to its employees and external customers. It allows the user to investigate the whole Devonport Municipal area. Not only does it give a visual representation of the city, it also holds details of property information, asset data, town planning zones, cemetery plot information and basic service locations, for example public toilets.
Once loaded, the user is a simple click away from being able to search for their own home, or find the best route to a specific location. Dekho contains a digital raster image of the main populated area of the municipality which gives a clear bird’s eye view of the city and surrounding area.
Hamish Murphy: From a technical perspective, Dekho runs on Microsoft-based technology on our Local Area Network (LAN). The public facing mapping application runs in our demilitarized zone (DMZ) – Dekho is served via a Linux-based reverse proxy server (configured to work with our Windows-based firewall). Using this configuration we are able to serve GIS data to the public while keeping our ArcGIS servers tucked away safely behind our firewall!
EA: What information does the map provide to your community?
MM: Dekho offers a means of viewing Council’s spatial data, so it’s a pathway to assist external users to access information on town planning zones, stormwater infrastructure, parks and reserves, walking tracks, basic planning and design and Council’s cemeteries. It can be used to plot routes around the municipality, measure distances and create simple maps.
The application has been used by the public to assist with rates payments, title information, building and planning applications and various other activities.
EA: Why did your Council choose Dekho?
MM: Council was already using Esri’s ArcGIS software as the editing medium to produce the base layers for the original mapping application. So it seemed a natural progression move to an Esri Australia product for our map viewer.
The application used by Council before obtaining Dekho was adequate for requirements at the time. However, over the years it became slow and difficult to maintain; eventually becoming obsolete and no longer supported by the provider. Council investigated options to replace the application with something that did as much (and hopefully more). We found that Dekho met our needs, enabling existing data to be incorporated whilst giving the opportunity to expand the service as time goes on.
The ability to integrate and interrogate Council’s existing databases from Dekho was of prime importance. Being able to use the data in both databases as search criteria in Dekho is paramount and will be extended and implemented as time progresses. We are hoping to be able to interrogate assets which currently show only their asset location and number, so that they will also show attribute data currently held in the Asset Register database, such as pipe size, material type and invert levels with a simple click of the mouse.
HM: Dekho’s integration model is flexible and modular – we use Dekho to centralise configuration/integration with external data sources for our property, finance and asset software. This is what allows us to add value to existing mapping services!
MM: Council has had Dekho on its website since December 2010 so it is still a relatively new application. So far feedback has been positive, with no complaints at all. It is still early days and use has been limited but will no doubt grow as people become aware of its existence.
Dekho allows outside users to access Council’s spatial data from their own homes, meaning that customer service officers do not have to deal with constant requests for maps. It assists with keeping non-essential requests to a minimum and gives users the opportunity to set up and print maps exactly as they require without having to return to Council on multiple occasions if the original map needs editing.
It allows the public to see in an instant where service connections to their properties are and how their properties are zoned. There is a link to the map from Council’s online rating application which allows the user to check property information. All these things can be done in the privacy of the user’s own home, thereby freeing up telephones and customer service officers.
EA: What is your favourite feature of Dekho?
MM: I like the way Dekho updates quickly. As soon as a feature is edited in ArcEditor the changes are reflected almost instantly in Dekho which is very satisfying. Knowing that the public has almost instant access to up-to-date data is extremely rewarding.
HM: I like the user experience the most – half the fun is the user interface!
EA: Would you recommend Dekho?
MM: Dekho is easy to use, constantly evolving and can be integrated to multiple applications. It can show as little or as much as the user needs with a simple mouse click. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good front facing mapping application.
HM: Definitely. For the Devonport City Council, Dekho increased usability and added integration features (while reducing administrative overhead).
EA: The Gov 2.0 concept is about providing information to the public and being transparent – do you feel this online map aligns you with these principles?
HM: Dekho allows Council to expose GIS information from its internal systems via the Internet to the public. This means that members of the public can see up-to-the-minute information with data that’s sourced from multiple systems. So yes, we do feel that Dekho addresses these principles of Gov 2.0.
Providing a means to manipulate Council GIS data, Dekho is offered to the community as a collaborative tool. We’re currently looking at ways we can improve this service. Ideally we would like to engage the community to share GIS resources online with reference to Dekho or even within Dekho itself.
EA: Apart from Dekho/public facing mapping application, does your Council use location intelligence in other ways?
MM: DCC has a GIS team who are constantly updating and inputting data into the assets and GIS databases. Council’s GIS is linked to a large Asset Register database and is used by many officers across several departments. Information must be accurate and we use a GPS unit, aerial photography and survey data to verify the information that goes into our mapping system. The data is used to verify the existence and location of Council assets. Once the data is in Dekho it is used to verify property information, planning zones, street addressing, planning and design and cemetery enquiries.
The Design office has a number of staff who require accurate survey data in order to create construction plans that are used in the field by the civil construction teams. Their survey requirements include accurate location of road and stormwater infrastructure as well as Telstra, electrical and gas infrastructure. This information is input via the GPS unit or survey equipment.
EA: Thanks for your time Margaret and Hamish, it’s been great talking with you.