Collaborative Graphical Information Software

In our latest blog from the All Wales Continuous Improvement Community Annual Awards 2014, Kevin Williams from Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council tells us about their Graphical Information Software and the importance of collaboration.

NPTCBCStaff from our ICT Division, in conjunction with counterparts from the City & County of Swansea, have recently picked up a prestigious award from the Association of Geographic Information, an award contested across the whole of the UK Public Sector.

When the ICT Division decided to replace its high-cost proprietary Graphical Information Software (GIS) with a low-cost, high functionality open source alternative, the team’s aim was simple; to increase the availability of GIS to staff and our citizens for less cost. As a result of the benefits this project delivered, a great deal of interest was shown by neighbouring authorities including Swansea, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion. This resulted in a regional project tasked with identifying areas where cross-boundary collaboration would prove advantageous in identifying and delivering efficiency savings, increasing GIS usage and service improvements. This project was part funded by the existing regional programme and operated under the governance of the Central and South West Wales Shared ICT Services Board.

Early findings concluded that each local authority goes about the same tasks but nearly always in a slightly different manner, with GIS proving no exception to this rule. When the group first formed, it became apparent that each authority had differing proprietary GIS solutions but all had the same problem. How to expand their systems without being tied to a commercial vendor with ever increasing costs?

Having concluded the project, it is clear that the benefits realised are not restricted to the savings on licence fees and the elimination of maintenance agreements, although at half a million pounds over five years these estimated savings are substantial, but that by adopting the OpenSource solution within our authorities, GIS usage is now limitless. Removing the financial constraints can empower anyone to access their data in a spatial manner, enabling quicker and more informed decision making and ultimately improving council services.

Working collaboratively on this project has also helped forge new working relationships and assisted in breaking down the boundaries regarding creating shared services between local authorities. It was this work that the awards committee were so taken with, which resulted in the recognition of innovation and cross sector working. Kevin Williams, who led the project for NPT, has now been invited to sit on the panel of AGI Cymru, representing the OpenSource GIS.

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