Expanding local knowledge through Community Maps

Esri’s Community Maps Program allows users to share their local content in the Cloud with the global GIS community. The City of Melbourne was the first Australian council to make its spatial data freely available through the Program. We sat down with Esri Australia Senior Consultant Andrew Langdon to learn more about Community Maps, and why local councils might consider taking part.

Esri Australia: Andrew, how significant was the City of Melbourne’s decision to make its spatial data freely available?
Andrew: It’s hugely significant. Melbourne now sits alongside New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and other major cities as one of the first in the world to contribute to a new World Topographical Map, and join the Community Maps Program. From a local perspective, ratepayers – as well as the broader community – can now freely access Melbourne’s spatial data as a basemap, which displays building sites, parcel boundaries, tree locations and other layers.

EA: Can you tell us a bit about the Community Maps Program? What exactly is involved?
A: The Community Maps Program is an Esri initiative that seeks to make local authoritative GIS content more accessible to the community – by developing a suite of multi-scale global basemaps that can be used in a wide variety of applications. As part of the Program, councils can contribute their own basemaps – which are then made freely available to the public through ArcGIS Online. Councils can choose to upload 23 different types of data including trees, building footprints, trails and landmarks.

EA: How do contributors benefit from the Program?
A: Essentially, it’s an easy way for councils to share maps with their stakeholders – whether that’s businesses in their region, or members of the public – as well as the global GIS community. It’s free to contribute, free to access and there are no ongoing infrastructure costs. For example, when it comes to the City of Melbourne, they now have a way to share their spatial information with the community. This has been particularly valuable during major events such as their New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Providing open access to its spatial data also means users can not only view maps, but also create their own customised maps with unprecedented levels of detail. Businesses often have maps on their website of their store locations or the areas they service – and previously, they’ve had to rely on some online base maps that haven’t been regularly updated or verified. By contributing to the Community Maps Program, Melbourne residents and businesses now have open access to an incredibly accurate and verified base map they know they can trust.

EA: Can you tell us about the Local Government Information Model? What role does it play in the Community Maps Program?
A: The Local Government Information Model is a collection of valuable resources created and maintained by Esri for local government GIS users. It is the common data model at the heart of the Community Maps Program, and is where local governments migrate their data for review, before it is imported into a community map, like the World Topographical Map.

EA: In the recently released Local Government Benchmark Study, over 70% of councils indicated they would consider making their spatial data freely available to the broader community. What are the incentives for councils in going down this path?
A: From a community perspective it gives ratepayers ongoing and reliable access to an authoritative and trustworthy resource that’s always available. It encourages information-sharing between councils and their communities. Councils can also reduce their administrative costs by having an accessible, low-cost basemap that can easily be updated.

EA: Thanks Andrew.

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