Category Archives: Local Government

Scotland’s Coastal Change Assessment

Assessing the future impact of coastal change

ArcGIS shows us not only where coastal change has occurred in Scotland over the last century, and how quickly, but where future changes will occur and which of our infrastructure assets will be at risk.

Public sector organisations can collaborate more effectively with a shared understanding of coastal change

Businesses can identify risks to their property and make well-informed decisions to protect their assets

Members of the public can better understand and prepare for coastal changes in Scotland

“ If we had been doing this project five years ago, before ArcGIS Online, we wouldn’t have been able to be as responsive to the original vision of the project and share our coastal change insight with everyone

Lachlan Renwick – GIS Services Manager, Scottish Natural Heritage

The Challenge

While Scotland is renowned for its spectacular coastal cliffs and scenic rocky coves, 19% of the country’s 21,000 km of shoreline is formed of beaches, sand dunes and saltmarshes. Government and university experts are concerned about the potential long-term implications of climate change on these soft landforms, because they are highly susceptible to erosion, as well as accretion from the build-up of sediments along the coast.

The Scottish Government recognises the importance of the likely future impacts of climate change on Scotland’s soft coastal landscapes and joined forces with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the University of Glasgow to undertake the country’s first ever National Coastal Change Assessment. However, before researchers could begin to assess future risks, they first needed to understand what changes had taken place in the last 120 years, where they had occurred and the pace at which these changes had happened.

“ Ultimately the information in DynamicCoast.com helps Scotland, its businesses and communities become more resilient to climate change

Professor Jim Hansom – Principal Researcher for Dynamic Coast, University of Glasgow

The Solution

With funding from Scotland’s Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW), researchers used Esri’s ArcGIS Desktop to analyse geo-rectified historical maps from the 1890s and 1970s alongside modern maps and LiDAR surfaces. They used over a million data points in the soft, erodible sections of the Scottish shoreline and built up a fully interactive map, enabling them to not only depict a century of coastal change, but also calculate the rate of change for every 10 metres of the soft coast. The analysis showed an increase in erosion extent of 39%, a fall in extent of accretion of 22% and a doubling of erosion rates, above historic baseline levels.

Using this evidence base, the researchers then performed sophisticated spatial analysis to identify areas likely to experience future change. They highlighted the areas of anticipated future erosion in dark red on the map and included a ten metre erosion influence area, which together includes more than 50 buildings, 5 km of roads, 2 km of railway and 2 km of water pipes that may be threatened by erosion by 2050. Over £340m of assets are at risk if erosion continues, however, in total, £13bn of assets are protected by ‘natural defences’.

Finally, the project team used Esri’s ArcGIS Online platform to share its insight into coastal erosion via an accessible web map that everyone can easily view, interrogate and understand. Called DynamicCoast.com, it enables people to browse every beach in Scotland, zoom in to view potential erosion risks at any location, using any device, whether they are at home, at work or standing on a beach. Lachlan Renwick, GIS Services Manager at Scottish Natural Heritage says, “If we had been doing this project five years ago, before ArcGIS Online, we wouldn’t have been able to be as responsive to the original vision of the project and share our coastal change insight with everyone.”

“ The GIS-led research approach we developed gives us accurate, statistical evidence and allows us to provide objective recommendations with confidence

Dr Alistair Rennie – Dynamic Coast Project Manager, Scottish Government

The Benefits

Firm evidence of climate change along Scotland’s coast
Using ArcGIS Desktop, researchers have gained tangible evidence about climate change, which they can use to make secure judgements about the future. “As scientists, we are all inherently cautious about making future predictions, yet as advisors we need to give advice to help the Scottish Government, businesses and citizens prepare for the future,” says Dr Alistair Rennie, Dynamic Coast Project Manager, Scottish Government. “The GIS-led research approach we developed gives us accurate, statistical evidence and allows us to provide objective recommendations with confidence.”

Improved resilience to climate change
By accessing DynamicCoast.com, the public and organisations can now easily find out how the continuance of past coastal changes may impact their property and assets and, as a result, make better informed decisions to reduce their longer term risks and costs. For instance, electricity suppliers can use the information to plan the installation of new electricity cables with more confidence, to avoid those areas where their condition and safety may be jeopardised by erosion or changing sea levels in the future. The University of Glasgow’s Prof. Jim Hansom, Principal Researcher for Dynamic Coast, says: “Ultimately the information in DynamicCoast.com helps Scotland, its businesses and communities become more resilient to climate change.”

Greater public awareness of coastal change
As the data is displayed on simple-to-use, interactive maps via ArcGIS Online, people with absolutely no prior experience of GIS can easily understand the implications of continued erosion and climate change on the areas of coastline where they live, work or visit. “For many climate change is a vague and distant topic, but everyone can now see for the first time, precisely how much change has happened and what the future impacts may be on the specific beaches they love,” Renwick says.

A collaborative response to the challenges of coastal change
The versatility of the ArcGIS platform, and the breadth of the analysis available, is the cornerstone of future collaboration between government bodies in Scotland and will lead to more joined-up responses to the challenges of coastal change. Organisations like SNH, SEPA, Historic Environment Scotland and Local Authorities can work more effectively together to assess the implications for threatened sites of historical and environmental interest and put strategies in place to protect and preserve them for future generations.

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Greater London Authority

Meeting rising demand for school places across London

In a ground-breaking project initiated by the London Mayor’s Office, the Greater London Authority has launched an online atlas of London schools, across its 33 London boroughs. The unprecedented clarity of information in the atlas will help the capital meet rising demand for school places, as well as allow families to make better-informed decisions when selecting schools.

London boroughs can understand the cross-boundary flow of pupils to better anticipate demand for school places

Education providers have evidence to justify their funding applications for new schools and expansion projects

Families can see consistent information about all schools and make the right choices for their children

The Challenge

In just eight years’ time, by 2025, London is predicted to need as many as 160,000 additional school places. This phenomenal growth is significantly faster than any other area of the UK and presents a significant challenge for the 33 London borough councils, which are responsible for providing school places in the capital. The complex relationship between population growth and demand for places varies hugely by location and over time, as ‘bubbles’ of growth can work their way through the school system. Understanding the picture spatially is vital because as many as 20% of young people cross borough boundaries to go to school each day.

The picture is similarly complex for parents in the capital who have to decide which schools to apply for or which new area to move into. Although some local authorities publish guidelines or catchment maps, their approach varies, making it difficult for parents to compare the likelihood of getting into different schools and the onward flow from primary schools to secondary schools.

“ ArcGIS gave us the robust platform we needed to openly share the findings from the Mayor’s Educational Inquiry recommendations

Paul Hodgson – GIS and Infrastructure Manager, Greater London Authority

The Solution

Recognising these challenges, The Mayor of London launched an Educational Inquiry and recommended the pan-London collection and analysis of data about school places. The Greater London Authority (GLA) used Esri’s ArcGIS Desktop solution in combination with other products to analyse anonymised data from the National Pupil Database, which comprises information on 8 million pupils, gathered over a five year period. “There aren’t that many systems which can handle the breadth and complexity of pupil and location data that we wanted to analyse and visualise,” says Paul Hodgson, GIS and Infrastructure Manager at the GLA. “ArcGIS gave us the robust platform we needed to openly share the findings from the Mayor’s Educational Inquiry recommendations.”

The organisation then used ArcGIS Server and JavaScript to create a customised, highly intuitive and interactive online map to display its data. This map, named the London Schools Atlas, shows for the first time the areas where pupils from particular schools live, historic catchment areas and feeder schools. Parents can click on their address and select a nearby school to see not only what percentage of children from their area attend this school, but also view the exam results and Ofsted inspection grades for this school and even calculate the journey time by foot or public transport.

The GLA supplemented the London Schools Atlas with data on birth rates, moves in and out of the capital, building developments and other factors that will have an impact on the net growth in pupil numbers in the period 2015-2025 to create graded maps that clearly highlight those areas of London where additional school places will be required in the future, to support critical education planning.

“ One of the GLA’s core missions is to provide strategic coordination across London. This project is a good example of how the GLA is fulfilling that role and adding value for Londoners

Paul Hodgson – GIS and Infrastructure Manager, Greater London Authority

The Benefits

Clear information for parents and carers
Following the launch of the London Schools Atlas, parents and guardians have a single point of reference for consistent, accurate information about all primary, secondary and specialist schools in London. They can access the interactive map from any desktop, tablet or mobile device and easily find the information they need to ascertain the probability of getting places at different schools. “There’s often a lot of anecdotal information at the school gate about how close you have to be to schools to get a place and which secondary schools primary pupils generally feed into,” Hodgson says. “The London Schools Atlas enables parents to make informed decisions when making and ranking their six school choices as part of the school application process.”

Accurate evidence to support future planning
Critically, The London Schools Atlas gives London’s 33 borough councils the evidence they need to approach the Department of Education for central government funding for new schools and school expansion projects to meet the population growth. Likewise, free school groups and academies can use the data presented in the London Schools Atlas to make sure that their proposals for new schools are in the right locations to fulfil projected demand. “It has been estimated that 4,000 new classrooms of 30 children will be needed in London over the next ten years, but not all in the same place at the same time,” Hodgson remarks. “The London Schools Atlas helps all education providers to understand at a local level, where and when places are required.”

Added insight coupled with reduced administration
Education managers working within borough councils now have added insight into demand for school places in their boroughs, because, for the first time, they can clearly see the cross-border flow of pupils. The project also saves time in education departments in boroughs right across the capital, because, as Hodgson says, “instead of publishing schools information 33 times in 33 different formats, it is just done once.” Indeed, individual boroughs will now be able to spend less time looking for and analysing information and can focus instead on meeting pupil needs and raising education standards.

Exemplary public sector coordination
In many ways, the London Schools Atlas is a beacon of best practice for London, as it demonstrates how the London Mayor’s Office and the GLA can provide leadership to improve efficiency and optimise public services in the capital. Hodgson says: “One of the GLA’s core missions is to provide strategic coordination across London. This project is a good example of how the GLA can fulfil that role and add value for Londoners.”

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Greater London Authority

Meeting the needs of 10.5 million Londoners

The Greater London Authority (GLA) is pioneering a new, more collaborative approach to infrastructure planning to guide the long-term growth of the capital. Using Esri’s ArcGIS platform, it has developed an inventive web app that will help public and private sector organisations make better investment decisions and deliver the right infrastructure to meet the needs of over 10.5 million Londoners by 2041.

Time and cost savings for private and public organisations, as they can collaborate more effectively on joint works

Reduced road disruption leading to happier Londoners and an estimated cost saving of £4 million

Accelerated home building with utility infrastructure delivered ahead of demand

The Challenge

Based on an analysis conducted by the GLA, the number of people living in London is expected to grow by almost 2 million between 2018 and 2041, placing a significant added strain on the city’s core water, energy and transportation infrastructure. Indeed, the city will require sizeable capacity increases across its infrastructure networks, including public transport, electricity, waste processing, digital communications, recycling and other services to support the building of 66,000 new homes per year.

Recognising the need for considerable long-term investment in infrastructure in the city, London City Hall launched a new coordinated approach to infrastructure planning, called The London Infrastructure Plan 2050. The former Mayor then convened an Infrastructure Delivery Board, comprising top leaders from London’s water, energy and transport providers, as well as London borough councils, central government departments, engineers, developers and advisors. Very quickly it became clear that these infrastructure providers needed an effective way to share their long term business plans and gain better information to help them coordinate their delivery of infrastructure schemes.

“We believe that use of our ArcGIS app can encourage utilities to invest ahead of demand and therefore support the delivery of the Mayor’s housing targets.”

Molly Strauss, Senior Policy and Programme Officer, Greater London Authority

The Solution

The GLA is a long-standing user of geographic information system (GIS) solutions from Esri UK. Using Esri’s ArcGIS Online and the Esri JavaScript API, the organisation built a prototype app for infrastructure planning in London, known as the GLA Infrastructure Mapping Application (IMA), with support from Esri UK’s Professional Services team. The GLA continued to refine and build on the solution over several months and then, on 1st August 2017, it launched Version 2.0, a more sophisticated and user-friendly solution.

The app brings together future investment data on everything from new housing and schools to sewerage and rail services, and shows it alongside relevant contextual data on population growth and, increasingly, capacity requirements. As a result, users can easily see where infrastructure and development is planned—to help them identify opportunities for coordination and evaluate where additional infrastructure investment is needed—in a highly visual map-based format. The app is available in two versions: one limited to infrastructure providers and the public sector, and another for members of the public.

Molly Strauss, Senior Policy and Programme Officer at GLA, says, “Our Infrastructure Mapping Application represents a major step forward in integrating disparate data sets from industry and the public sector in London. In the first four months alone, the app generated nearly 9,000 page views.”

“Were our ArcGIS-based app to reduce road congestion from planned works on the TfL network by just 1% over one year, the GLA has estimated that the cost savings due to avoiding delay would be in excess of £4 million”

Molly Strauss, Senior Policy and Programme Officer, Greater London Authority

The Benefits

Time and cost efficiencies from joined-up project delivery
The GLA anticipates that the private and public sector organisations involved in delivering new infrastructure in London will make time and costs efficiencies, in the medium and long term, through more joined-up project planning. For instance, a water utility can see where and when a new rail tunnel is being dug – many years in advance – and potentially plan to upgrade a nearby water main in conjunction, generating cost savings. Similarly, gas and electricity providers can see if they are making infrastructure improvements in the same area, in a similar time period, and make plans to share labour and materials to reduce costs.

Reduced road disruption and associated costs
Using the GLA IMA, organisations can collaborate more closely to minimise road disruption for Londoners. For instance, two utility companies can better coordinate the timing of works so that they both operate on the same street at the same time, reducing the need for repeat road closures. This is not only good news for Londoners; it also leads to significant cost savings, as Strauss explains. “Were our ArcGIS-based app to reduce road congestion from planned works on the TfL network by just 1% over one year, the GLA has estimated that the cost savings due to avoiding delay would be in excess of £4 million.”

The right investments, ahead of demand
For the first time, utilities and transportation providers in London can easily see the locations of planned new housing, public sector and commercial developments and make the informed investment plans to ensure that the necessary services are ready before they are needed. For example, a water utility can see if large-scale growth is expected in an area where there is limited capacity in its water drainage network and plan appropriately to extend it. “We believe that use of our ArcGIS app can encourage utilities to invest ahead of demand and therefore support the delivery of the Mayor’s housing targets,” Strauss says.

Better outcomes for Londoners
Finally, the use of the GLA IMA contributes greatly to better long-term decision making in London. The public sector, utilities, transportation providers, developers and engineers are able to plan ahead based on improved knowledge of population growth, housing developments, new schools, existing infrastructure constraints and planned infrastructure investments. “The result of all of this is better outcomes for Londoners,” Strauss says. “With the development of our ArcGIS app, we are helping the public and private sector to work together more effectively to help create the necessary infrastructure for the new homes, jobs and services that Londoners need.”

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Lambeth Council

Making Open Data available and relevant

The London Borough of Lambeth Council has become a pioneer of best practice in the publication of local government Open Data in the UK. Using ArcGIS Online and preconfigured Open Data templates, the council doesn’t just make Open Data available; it makes it relevant and useable for the widest possible range of people and organisations.

Council employees save weeks of effort each year by not having to respond to Freedom of Information and data requests

Citizens gain online access to council data in a map-based format that they can more easily understand

Third party organisations harvest Open Data in a wide choice of formats to suit their business needs

The Challenge

When the UK Government launched its Transparency Agenda and announced that data about public sector operations would be made ‘open’ to everyone, it unleashed an enormous technical challenge for local authorities. As Tom Brown, Geographic Information Manager at Lambeth Council says, “After years of funding cuts, we had no budget for additional on premise IT equipment or external IT services to enable us to create an Open Data system. We also lacked the technical expertise in-house to put in place a wide range of download options for citizens and third party organisations.”

To comply with the Local Government Transparency Code, the council initially just uploaded data sets to its website, all on separate web pages, which involved manually exporting and updating files. This process consumed a huge amount of time and didn’t necessarily result in the publication of data that was useful for citizens; a list of council expenditure that Lambeth Council had a mandatory requirement to publish only received a handful of views in two years. “We needed a better system for publishing Open Data that would be more cost effective and time efficient,” says Tom Brown. “Yet we also wanted to be able to publish the kinds of data that citizens would actually find helpful and present it to them, in context, in a range of formats that they could use.”

“ArcGIS Online has definitely helped to push us to the forefront of the Open Data movement.”

Tom Brown, Geographic Information Manager, London Borough of Lambeth Council

The Solution

Lambeth Council achieved its goals using Esri’s ArcGIS Online and pre-configured ArcGIS Online Open Data templates. As a hosted, web-based solution, ArcGIS Online requires no investment in on premise hardware, no space in the council’s data centre and no complex software configurations. Furthermore, as the council has been using Esri’s ArcGIS geographic information system (GIS) platform for many years and already has an existing ArcGIS Desktop license, it can use ArcGIS Online without any additional costs.

From the outset, Lambeth Council found it very straightforward to set up the ArcGIS Online Open Data portal and integrate it with its own website. “It is incredibly easy to add, configure and standardise metadata for each web service and I don’t have to manually export data past the council’s firewall anymore,” Brown says. “The data is also live-linked to our internal corporate data, so I don’t have to constantly update it.”

A key advantage of ArcGIS Online for Lambeth Council is that the Open Data template provides a wide range of data download options, including creating spreadsheets, integrating with multiple API codes and exporting in .kml or .shp formats. The solution also allows multiple data sets to be visualised together on the same interactive map, for the first time. These features enable Lambeth Council to cater for the data needs of a much wider range of users, from those with very low IT skills to highly experienced, technical GIS professionals.

“Lambeth Council publishes more spatial Open Data than any other local authority in the UK. But it’s not just about publishing the most. Using ArcGIS Online we can also publish our data in the best range of formats to make it useful and relevant for the widest number of people.”

Tom Brown, Geographic Information Manager, London Borough of Lambeth Council

The Benefits

Significant time savings within the council
The new ArcGIS Online Open Data portal has freed up a substantial amount of time for council employees, working across multiple departments. In the IT department, at least one day per week has been saved as employees no longer have to export, convert and dispatch map-based data files to external organisations such as council-appointed architects and companies maintaining traffic light systems; these organisations can self-serve the information they need themselves. When data on business rates was made available on the Open Data portal, the number of freedom of information requests made to the council reduced by 75%, significantly reducing administration time in that area.

Better information available to citizens
Rather than just viewing isolated lists of information, citizens can now view council data in the context of an interactive map and integrate it with other data to help them better understand the services available in their areas. Likewise, local groups, like residents associations, can easily access information about everything from local planning policy to refuse services, and display all pertinent data in the same format, on the same map, in a format they can understand. Lambeth Council’s new Open Data portal has also been used within the council’s call centre, enabling employees to respond to citizens’ enquiries quickly and knowledgeably, delivering a high quality of service.

Greater support for third party organisations
The ArcGIS Online Open Data portal has been extremely well received by third party organisations, which can now download council data in precisely the format they need, to integrate it into their own business systems. SAT NAV providers regularly stream data from the portal to improve the accuracy of their routing information, while small graphic design agencies can obtain free, easy access to map images to illustrate their reports. Lambeth Council’s Open Data will be automatically harvested by regional and national data hubs, like data.gov.uk, making it readily accessible to many more organisations, far beyond the boundaries of the borough.

Leadership in the advancement of Open Data
With more than 100 data sets already available via ArcGIS Online, the council has become one of the UK’s leading advocates of Open Data in local government. “Lambeth Council publishes more spatial Open Data than any other local authority in the UK,” says Brown. “But it’s not just about publishing the most. Using ArcGIS Online we can also publish our data in the best range of formats to make it useful and relevant for the widest number of people. ArcGIS Online has definitely helped to push us to the forefront of the Open Data movement.”

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Donegal County Council

Crowd sourcing information to improve local planning

As part of the EU Northern Periphery Arctic Programme funded IMPROVE project on creating better public services, Donegal County Council commissioned Esri Ireland to help it engage with citizens more effectively on planning issues using crowdsourcing technology. Now the council can capture local knowledge and give citizens a stronger voice in the planning process.

Planning Officers make more efficient and better informed decisions about planning applications

Citizens play a greater role in the planning process as their views and knowledge are captured

Esri Ireland delivered the solution in 3 to 4 weeks using ArcGIS Online templates

The Challenge

Like all local authorities, Donegal County Council needs to take into account a huge range of factors when making decisions about planning applications. Much of the information it requires – such as the locations of special areas of conservation and flood risks – is held centrally within the council’s geographic information system (GIS), Esri’s ArcGIS platform. As a result, planning officers use ArcGIS to analyse the locations of proposed developments and identify any potential development conflicts quickly and easily.

The council realised, however, that there was a lot of local knowledge about Donegal that was not accessible via its GIS. Communities, families and individuals had knowledge about certain buildings, fields and even hedgerows that was often very pertinent to planning decisions, but that wasn’t recorded. The council consequently wanted to find a way to capture this ‘micro-knowledge’ within ArcGIS, so that it could be taken into account at an earlier stage in the planning process.

If we have more local information up-front, we can make well-informed decisions more quickly, improving the overall efficiency of our planning process

Daragh McDonough, Information Systems Project Leader – Donegal County Council

The Solution

With funding from the EU Northern Periphery Arctic Programme (NPA) IMPROVE project, Donegal County Council commissioned Esri Ireland to develop a solution for capturing local information from members of the public, making it publically available and incorporating it into the council’s core GIS planning systems. Esri Ireland achieved these goals by using Esri’s ArcGIS Online Crowdsource Reporter and Crowdsource Manager templates to expand the capabilities of the council’s existing ArcGIS platform.

“Esri Ireland brought strong expertise of working with Esri’s ArcGIS Online templates, specifically the Crowdsource Reporter and Crowdsource Manager, and was able to turn the project around for us very quickly,” says Daragh McDonough, Information Systems Project Leader at Donegal County Council. “We also learned a lot from working with Esri Ireland during the project, so we will be able to maintain and develop the solution ourselves in the future.”

After trialling the solution with a focus group of local citizens, Donegal County Council structured its crowdsourcing portal around seven key themes, ranging from the natural environment to transportation issues, with up to 12 different sub-sections underneath each. In this way, the council is able to organise the content it collects and use it effectively within its planning systems.

Now, members of the public can access the solution, named MyDonegalPlace, on the council’s website, put a dot on the map and enter local information on anything from the site of a bird’s nest or the birthplace of a local hero to a traffic blackspot. They can upload images and vote or comment on other people’s posts, helping the council to see which issues are most important locally. Council employees use Crowdsource Manager to moderate the content before it is published, making sure that personal details are not revealed.

Esri Ireland has given us a fantastic new way of capturing local information and giving citizens a role in the decision-making process for planning applications

Daragh McDonough, Information Systems Project Leader – Donegal County Council

The Benefits

Improved efficiency in the planning process
Donegal County Council expects to be able to make more informed planning decisions, as it can now take into account concerns and knowledge that local people have, right from the outset. For example, the council anticipates that it will need to issue fewer Further Information Requests, which can delay planning applications by up to 16 weeks. “If we have more local information up-front, we can make well-informed decisions more quickly, improving the overall efficiency of our planning process,” McDonough says.

Time and cost savings for developers
Developers and individuals who submit planning applications can potentially save money and time by using the Crowdsource Reporter to better understand local concerns. If they ensure that these local issues are fully addressed in their initial planning applications, they will avoid the added costs and delays that typically occur when plans are refused and amendments are required.

Greater community engagement in planning
Ultimately, the development of the new crowdsourcing solution benefits communities throughout Donegal, as it allows anyone to engage in the planning process in a structured way. “It gives people a voice,” McDonough says. “Esri Ireland has given us a fantastic new way of capturing local information and giving citizens a role in the decision-making process for planning applications.”

Enhanced public consultations
Looking ahead, Donegal County Council plans to use Crowdsource Reporter during public consultations to give members of the public a greater choice of ways in which to engage in the process. For example, it plans to use its new crowdsourcing solution as part of the upcoming Letterkenny Town Plan Review. “Crowdsource Reporter is a really valuable tool that we can use to engage with local people during public consultations, alongside traditional drop-in clinics and events,” McDonough says. “It will help us to get more people involved in building a shared vision for the future of Letterkenny.”

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Central Statistics Office & Ordnance Survey Ireland

Creating powerful insight from effective collaboration

With a shared vision for optimising the use of public sector data, the Central Statistics Office of Ireland and Ordnance Survey Ireland joined forces to maximise value from Ireland’s 2016 census. Their collaboration led to Ireland’s participation in a ground breaking project for the United Nations and the launch of two new data portals that are making information about Ireland’s people, environment and prosperity available in ways that were never possible before.

CSO and OSi can provide more meaningful information to support government policy making

Citizens can more easily access and understand census data and appreciate issues of national significance

Government working groups and agencies have easy access to evidence for reports and investment bids

The Challenge

Every five years, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) of Ireland conducts a census survey of the country’s 4.8 million residents, at 1.5 million households, across an area of 70,000 km2, using the ‘long form’ method to collect data on everything from individuals’ employment status to their means of travel to work. The organisation traditionally presented this census data in statistical tables and published it in reports, illustrated with a few maps and diagrams. It realised, however, that there was an opportunity for it to increase the value of the census by analysing and presenting the information spatially.

Senior executives at CSO engaged in conversations with Ireland’s national mapping agency, the Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi), and the two organisations discovered that their future visions were very compatible. “It made sense at a number of levels for us to collaborate,” says Lorraine McNerney, General Manager of Geospatial Systems at OSi. “Both organisations were playing active roles in the Government’s public sector reform plan; both organisations worked with data and analytics; and both organisations used Esri’s geographic information system (GIS) platform, ArcGIS. Our discussions culminated in the signing of a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in September 2016, and the two organisations agreed to work together to create new channels for disseminating geospatially referenced data for Ireland.”

Just a few months after the MOU was signed, CSO and OSi were approached by the United Nations and Esri Inc. and invited to participate in a research project to develop and deploy a new method of monitoring the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) using GIS. Ireland was one of only seven countries selected for this ground breaking initiative and the only country from Europe, so as McNerney says, it was something to feel “really proud of.” The opportunity provided a clear focus for the partnership and provided the impetus for CSO and OSi to launch an ambitious, collaborative development project.

“What we have done in Ireland really showcases the benefits of having geospatial census information. When you add locations to statistics, they become so much more powerful.”

Kevin McCormack, Head of Division, Sustainable Development Goals Indicators and Reports – Central Statistics Office

The Solution

OSi had already developed a data sharing platform called GeoHive, based on Esri’s ArcGIS Online solution, so CSO and OSi decided to use GeoHive as the technical platform for their collaborative projects. GeoHive acts as a “hub of hubs”, allowing the same data to be presented to different audiences, with different views, in a number of sub-portals known as ‘micro-hives’.

While working on the United Nations SDG project, CSO and OSi decided to create a micro-hive to present Ireland’s Census 2016 Small Area Population Statistics (SAPS) as geographical Open Data for the first time. The resulting portal (http://census2016.geohive.ie) allows the census data to be viewed, accessed or downloaded in map form across 31 administrative counties, 95 municipal districts, 3,409 electoral divisions and 18,641 small areas. The data sets include globally unique identifiers (GUIDs) to connect statistics and geography, which is a necessary step for using standard common IDs for spatial data in Ireland.

Using the Census 2016 Portal, anyone can explore Ireland’s latest census data by theme, combine multiple data layers to create their own maps, embed maps in other applications, download data or connect to it via a series of Open Standards application programming interfaces (APIs). “With the launch of the Census 2016 Portal, we showcased what our two organisations could achieve together,” says Kevin McCormack, Head of Division for Sustainable Development Goals Indicators and Reports at the Central Statistics Office. “We also achieved CSO’s goal of making census data available in a more meaningful and accessible geospatial format.”

Four months later, in November 2017, CSO and OSi launched the Ireland SDG Portal (http://irelandsdg.geohive.ie), a separate micro-hive with data aligned specifically to the United Nations’ 17 development goals, 169 targets and 230 indicators. This portal incorporates census 2016 variables from CSO and includes over 100 spatial data sets about Ireland ranging from biodiversity to traffic accidents. The portal provides over 50 indicators relating to Ireland’s progress towards SDGs and Users can click on the map at the top of the screen to see colour-coded visual indicators, such as the proportion of unemployed females in each electoral ward.

CSO and OSi worked in close partnership with Esri Ireland to deliver both the Census 2016 Portal and the Ireland SDG Portal. Indeed, according to McCormack, the success of both projects was due to the collaboration, complementary skills and commitment of the three organisations involved. “As a team, we are very strong,” he says. “CSO, OSi and Esri Ireland have brought together the data, the maps and the GIS platform – and it is the combination of all three that has enabled us to move forwards so successfully.”

As an extension to the two portals, the joint team is producing a series of ArcGIS Online Story Maps to highlight key issues indicated by the CSO census 2016 data and other sources of Open Data. The first of these Story Maps addresses issues including climate change and unemployment and brings together data, interactive maps, images and narratives to tell the story behind the statistics. People don’t need any technical skills or competence with numbers to be able to gain an insight into an issue and zoom into the map to see how the issue impacts the parts of the country where they live or work. “For people who aren’t used to handling data, Story Maps make statistics really easy to understand and are therefore excellent communications tools,” says Esri Ireland’s Katie Goodwin, Team Lead for the development of the national data infrastructure for geography and statistics.

“Story Maps provide a new way of communicating that captures hearts and minds. They really help to open up conversations that OSi and CSO wouldn’t have been a part of before and enable us to engage with a wider range of people.”

Lorraine McNerney, General Manager for Geospatial Systems – Ordnance Survey Ireland

The Benefits

Improved ability to inform Government policy decisions
By making it easier for policy makers, researchers and government officials to visualise statistical information, the Census 2016 Portal and Ireland SDG Portal will play key roles in supporting Government decision making. It is anticipated that Story Maps will be particularly helpful in highlighting critical issues in society. For example, one recently completed Story Map, based on census 2016 data, shows that 40% of children in Ireland live in rented accommodation and are therefore at risk of poverty and homelessness if rental prices increase. “Story Maps open up issues for discussion and help to inform government policy,” McCormack says.

Better information to encourage investment in Ireland’s economy
The Census 2016 Portal is being used by the Industrial Development Authority (IDA), the Irish agency responsible for attracting foreign investment to Ireland, to help it identify the best locations to promote to organisations that are considering opening new businesses in the country. The agency can now easily see the locations of graduates, skilled employees and transportation links and gain the evidence it needs to attract new investment to Ireland. “What we have done in Ireland really showcases the benefits of having geospatial census information,” McCormack says. “When you add locations to statistics, they become so much more powerful.”

Easy access to transparent, meaningful data for all citizens
For the first time, anyone can access Ireland’s census data for 2016 in a geospatial format that is easy to understand and use. This improves public sector transparency, as all citizens can see the data upon which government policies are determined. In addition, not-for-profit organisations can use the Census 2016 Portal to see, for example, where there are high levels of unemployment. They can then direct their voluntary services to the locations where they are most needed and gain the evidence they need to lobby the Irish Government for added support in the areas of greatest need.

A more powerful way of engaging citizens in important issues
Through the development of Story Maps, linked to the United Nations’ SDGs, CSO and OSi can help the Irish Government to raise awareness of important issues impacting the country, such as the need to protect biodiversity and preserve water quality. “Story Maps provide a new way of communicating that captures hearts and minds,” says McNerney. “They really help to open up conversations that OSi and CSO wouldn’t have been a part of before and enable us to engage with a wider range of people.”

A cost-effective mechanism for meeting UN reporting requirements
Significantly, Ireland’s new SDG Portal will support the Irish Government, by making it easier for the Government to meet the United Nations’ SDG reporting obligations. Prior to the launch of the Ireland SDG Portal, there was no single repository for all of the data that the Irish Government would need to find and analyse to produce the reports. Now, government working groups responsible for United Nations reporting can find the pertinent data more easily, without having to duplicate effort or waste time manipulating data. As a result, they will be able to produce reports quickly, potentially reducing costs by saving time.

An example of best practice data sharing
Although still in its infancy, the Ireland SDG Portal has already been highlighted by the Irish Government as a best practice example of how public sector organisations can share and optimise the use of data. This country-owned, country-led project has been featured as a case study in a new strategy for the future development of Ireland’s public service, called ‘Our Public Service 2020’ (www.ops2020.gov.ie), which was launched on December 12th 2017. The policy envisions that “Sharing data across Government will facilitate better service delivery, support better decision making and increase the ease of access to services and drive efficiencies.”

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Avon & Somerset Constabulary

Putting police officers on the right beat

In a ground-breaking project, Avon and Somerset Constabulary has used Esri UK’s Sweet to transform the way in which it designs its beats, based on a deeper understanding of the needs of individual communities. It can now make more well-informed decisions and implement beat changes more quickly to improve the effectiveness of its Neighbourhood Policing Teams.

15 days of police time saved, every time a beat is changed, typically four or more times a year

Design and consultation process for new beats reduced from 6 months to 1 month

Beats can be changed more frequently to meet the evolving needs of communities

The Challenge

Avon and Somerset Constabulary divides its region into 121 tightly defined territories known as beats, where dedicated Neighbourhood Policing Teams engage with the local community on the streets, in neighbourhood meetings and at schools. Three or four times a year, the organisation needs to adjust the shape of its beats to optimise the allocation of police officers and ensure its resources are directed to the areas where they can most benefit local communities.

The process for redesigning, agreeing and implementing beat changes was incredibly complex. Police officers used to mark their proposed changes on paper maps, which were then passed between local teams and the force’s geographic information system (GIS) manager until a final version was agreed. Following ward boundary alterations in Bristol, it took Avon and Somerset Constabulary six months to agree changes to beats in the city, which caused unnecessary delays and consumed a significant amount of staff time that could have been better spent delivering more valuable policing services.

“The beat is right at the heart of community policing, so we have to get this right. Sweet enables us to adapt our beats and meet the needs of communities in a more agile way.”

Olivia Powell – GIS Manager, Avon and Somerset Constabulary.

The Solution

A long-time user of Esri’s ArcGIS platform, Avon and Somerset Constabulary discovered the solution to its challenge at Esri UK’s Annual User Conference, when Esri UK’s new application, Sweet, was introduced. Soon afterwards, the organisation used Sweet to develop a proof of concept for beat management and then built the solution in just four days with support from Esri UK’s professional services team.

Once fully rolled out, local policing teams will be able to use Sweet to view current beat boundaries, model changes and see the potential impacts of changes on population size, numbers of crimes and anti-social behaviour incidents and crime types. They can then share their proposed beat models with colleagues via a web map, so that consensus can be gained before changes are sent to the GIS team for implementation. A key advantage of SWEET Sweet is its simple interface, which enables it to be used by non-technical police sergeants, after just a small amount of training.

Critically, the solution utilises topological rules within SWEET Sweet to ensure that new beats are created consistently in accordance with the force’s procedures and naming conventions, no matter who produces them. For instance, it is impossible for police officers to inadvertently create new beats that overlap other beats or leave ‘gaps’ not covered by beats. This ensures that beats are designed correctly from inception and reduces the need for subsequent editing.

“Police officers and specialist GIS professionals in the force can now be more productive in other areas, where they can add greater value for communities.”

Olivia Powell – GIS Manager, Avon and Somerset Constabulary.

The Benefits

Faster implementation of beat changes

Avon and Somerset Constabulary anticipates that its use of Sweet will significantly reduce the amount of time required to implement beat changes in its region. This is primarily because the solution allows beat boundary amendments to be delineated electronically and shared with colleagues via a web app, which accelerates the consultation process. “Using Sweet, we now expect to be able to create new beats and gain consensus on the changes in less than a month, rather than up to six months,” says Olivia Powell, GIS Manager at Avon and Somerset Constabulary.

Substantial personnel cost and time savings

The force has calculated that it can potentially save around fifteen days of personnel time for a typical beat change: three days for a police inspector, one day for a police sergeant, three days for a police analyst and eight days for a GIS specialist. In monetary terms, this time saving equates to an annual financial saving of at least £12,000 for four beat changes a year, which represents a return on investment of over 2000%. In reality, the time saving frees up highly trained police personnel to work on different projects. As Powell explains, “Police officers and specialist GIS professionals in the force can now be more productive in other areas, where they can add greater value for communities.”

Better-designed beats that reflect demand and improve efficiency

Through its use of Sweet, Avon and Somerset Constabulary will be able to make better decisions about the optimal size and shape of beats, based on an improved understanding of crime in each community and policing best practices. For instance, police officers will be able to see how a proposed change in the geographic shape of a beat might increase the level of crime in that beat and necessitate the reallocation of neighbourhood policing resources. At the same time, the topographical rules in Sweet will ensure that new beats are optimally designed to avoid situations like doughnut-shaped beats that are inefficient to police.

Greater agility in meeting the needs of citizens

Most importantly, Sweet will give Avon and Somerset Constabulary the ability to respond more effectively to the evolving needs of the communities it serves. It will be able to implement beat changes more frequently to react to changes in demand for its services and create beats that make sense to communities, rather beats that are imposed by IT systems. “The beat is right at the heart of community policing, so we have to get this right,” Powell says. “Sweet enables us to adapt our beats and meet the needs of communities in a more agile way.”

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Norfolk County Council

Norfolk County Council

Improving the commissioning of school transport for vulnerable children

Norfolk County Council is using Esri’s ArcGIS platform to help it arrange the most suitable school transportation for pupils with special educational needs.  This insightful application of GIS is improving services and safety for children, while also helping the local authority to achieve its cost savings target.

With greater understanding of pupils’ travel needs, employees can commission safe, appropriate journeys

The council can easily see opportunities for pupils to share journeys or make shorter journeys to reduce travel costs

Efficiency savings from the use of this app will contribute to the SEN team’s £500,000 cost reduction target

The Challenge

Every year, Norfolk County Council is required to arrange travel to and from school, by minibus, car or taxi, for over 2,000 pupils with special educational needs (SEN).  The county is predominantly rural and covers a large area of 2,074 square miles, so the annual budget for SEN transportation in Norfolk exceeds £10 million.  In common with all departments within the council, the SEN transportation team was under pressure to reduce its operating costs and downscale this budget, but its priority none-the-less remained the same: to provide safe and secure journeys for vulnerable young people.

At the time, the SEN transportation team made decisions about journeys based on manual reports and commonly referred to a map pinned to the wall to help them understand distances between pupil addresses and schools. It was a lengthy, manual process, which relied largely on people’s experience and knowledge of the county, and this was neither efficient nor sustainable.

“Our new ArcGIS app allows us to provide a high quality transportation service for children with special educational needs, while operating cost efficiently.”

Tracy Jessop – Assistant Director of Highways and Transport, Norfolk County Council

The Solution

Norfolk County Council has been licensing geographic information system (GIS) solutions from Esri UK and gradually introducing new solutions for the council based on the Esri ArcGIS platform for over six years.   So, when it came to creating a solution for the SEN school transportation team, the organisation already had both the technology and skills it needed in-house.  “We married ArcGIS with our new data warehouse to create the solution,” explains Tony Collins, Senior Analyst Programmer, GIS and Data Warehousing, at Norfolk County Council.  “From the original concept, it took us just two months of development.”

The solution, known internally as the SEN Travel Viewer app, allows the SEN transportation team to view a map of Norfolk and see at a glance, where pupils live, which schools they attend, what kind of vehicle they travel in, if they travel alone and how far they travel.  The team can now easily see and investigate anomalies, such as two pupils in adjacent villages having separate transportation to the same school.  They can also use the app to plan and commission the most appropriate journeys for pupils who are new to the area, reaching school age or changing schools, taking into account existing transportation arrangements for other pupils nearby.

“The app speeds up the whole SEN transportation process, from beginning to end.”

Tim Hudson – Information Exploitation Team Manager, Norfolk County Council.

The Benefits

Reduced costs in the provision of school transport

As Norfolk County Council can now more easily identify opportunities for pupils to share journeys or make shorter journeys, it can reduce its expenditure on transportation, while continuing to meet pupils’ needs.  In its first year of use, the council expects the SEN Travel Viewer app to make a significant contribution to the SEN department’s savings target of £500,000.  “Our new ArcGIS app allows us to provide a high quality transportation service for children with special educational needs, while operating cost efficiently,” says Tracy Jessop, Assistant Director of Highways and Transport, Norfolk County Council.

Fine-tuned services that meet the needs of vulnerable pupils

Using ArcGIS, members of staff now have better access to information, which enables them to ensure that travel arrangements are the most appropriate for pupils’ needs and security.  “ArcGIS enables the council to take an evidence-based approach to commissioning school transport and justify the need for explicit transportation services for specific pupils, based on a better understanding of the journeys they need to make,” says Tim Hudson, Information Exploitation Team Manager at Norfolk County Council.

Improved staff productivity and faster decision making

The app has been well received by members of staff, who can now work more productively.  The rapid visualisation of schools and pupil locations enables the SEN transportation team to make quicker decisions about the most suitable transportation routes and methods.   Consequently, the team can process applications in less time and advise families about travel arrangements more promptly.  As Mr Hudson says, “The app speeds up the whole SEN transportation process, from beginning to end.”

Better information to support future planning

In the future, the SEN Travel Viewer app will also be used to help pinpoint the most advantageous locations for new SEN schools and facilities, based on the proximity of the young people who require access to these services.  The council will be able to identify central locations and plan strategically to reduce journey times and improve convenience for pupils and their families.  In this way, ArcGIS will continue to play a key role in helping the council to improve both the quality and cost efficiency of SEN provision throughout the county in the years ahead.

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Aylesbury Vale District Council

Transforming citizen engagement by shifting to digital channels

After reviewing its current reporting system, used by residents to report issues and concerns, Aylesbury Vale District Council utilised Esri UK’s professional services expertise to create a new and improved online reporting model. Not only delivering a better service to its citizens but also making vital resource and cost savings.

More efficient reporting of problems – fewer queries, errors and wasted trips

Improved service to residents – easier online reporting and faster resolution of problems

Reduced contact volumes – by avoiding duplicate reporting and minimising clarifications

The Challenge

Engagement with residents to maintain and improve their quality of life is a critical aspect of Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC)’s work. ReportIT is a mechanism by which issues or problems can be reported by residents, for action by the council. The system covers a broad range of concerns, from abandoned vehicles and antisocial behaviour to fly tipping and the safety of young people.

This important activity was found to be labour-intensive and potentially error-prone. The review of ReportIT identified several factors contributing to inefficiencies:
Reported problems often lie outside the council’s jurisdiction. Residents can be unaware of council structures and responsibilities, so would raise concerns to AVDC that were actually the responsibility of a different council.
Problems were being reported multiple times. Residents had no indication whether a problem has already been reported, so it would be reported again, causing duplication of effort.
Contractors resolving problems often attended the wrong location or needed to visit the site repeatedly, leading to wasted time and cost. This was because the reporting form did not capture all the information, including precise location, needed for first time resolution.
Residents like to be kept informed, but provision of regular updates was time consuming.

As part of its transformation journey, AVDC is adopting a ‘New Business Model’ which will remove such inefficiencies. The council identified that by shifting the primary contact channel to a new online reporting system it could:
1. Reduce the number of inbound contacts.
2. Reduce the cost of processing each report.
3. Improve feedback to residents.

AVDC had a suitable technology platform – ArcGIS Online from Esri, but cuts had meant that it did not have the resources to create the new solution. Furthermore, cost savings were needed quickly, so time was of the essence.

“ The new ReportIT solution has significantly improved the quality of information we are able to obtain on the initial contact enabling us to make improvements in our handling time for each individual report

Debbie White – Interim Customer Relationship Team Manager, Aylesbury Vale District Council

The Solution

The council contracted an Embedded Product Specialist (EPS) from Esri UK, chosen for their deep knowledge of the capabilities of ArcGIS Online. The EPS used standard templates to quickly create two vital applications:

1. Reporting tool. Esri UK’s QuestionWhere Builder enables a questionnaire or survey to be built around location-based questions. The EPS used QuestionWhere Builder to create a suite of forms, one for each type of problem being reported. A built-in map ensures that the location of the problem is correctly identified and that the problem falls within the regional boundaries of AVDC. Each report includes all the information a contractor needs to resolve the problem.

2. Analysis dashboard. AVDC’s communities and customer services teams needed a simple, visual way to monitor activity and identify any problems needing action. The EPS created a map-based visualisation that enabled the teams to query by boundary area, class of report and thus identify patterns and resolve issues.

Rather than write an exhaustive specification, the EPS used rapid prototyping techniques to create demonstration versions that gave AVDC a quick view of what was possible. The council provided immediate feedback to the EPS who, based in the council’s offices, implemented any changes there and then. This iterative approach kept the project on track and shortened development timescales.
The EPS also trained key IT staff from AVDC to use the tools, create new reports, edit existing reports, and maintain and develop the solution going forward. The whole project was completed in just five days.

“ Having the Esri UK EPS on site meant that we could try out different approaches and rapidly iterate the solution. The new ReportIT tool is already having an impact on our operations and thanks to the training from the EPS, we now have the capability to adapt our solution as needs change in the future

Debbie White – Interim Customer Relationship Team Manager, Aylesbury Vale District Council

The Benefits

Speed
The EPS helped AVDC rapidly assimilate the latest technology. Reporting and resolution processes are now smoother and faster as there are fewer queries, errors and wasted trips.

Flexibility
The council’s requirements are sure to evolve over time and it is well equipped to change the functionality of the solution as needed in the future. Yet AVDC is not dependent on permanent IT resources for ongoing development and support.

Improved service to residents
Residents can now report problems and track progress at a time of their own choosing. Their concerns and problems are now resolved by AVDC more quickly and with minimum need for discussion.

Reduction in contact volumes
The map-based tool helps residents report correctly – so that AVDC does not have to process reports that are outside its jurisdiction. Costly duplicate reporting is avoided and further questions and clarifications are minimised.

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