Meeting local needs with intelligent mapping
When East Northamptonshire Council and the Borough Council of Wellingborough decided to set up a joint ICT service to share resources and best practice, both organisations recognised the importance of GIS. They now make joint use of Esri’s ArcGIS platform and LocalView Fusion to deliver beneficial online services for customers, reduce costs and share data more effectively.
East Northamptonshire Council (ENC) and the Borough Council of Wellingborough (BCW) are neighbouring local authorities. In 2008, they agreed to combine their ICT services, to share and adopt best practices across both councils and provide the critical mass to deliver a viable solution for both organisations.
Citizens can use web maps to report faults (such as potholes) online and upload photographs, which helps the councils to respond promptly and effectively
The councils make local information easily accessible to citizens online in a ‘self-service’ approach that is less costly than handling phone calls and face-to-face enquiries
ArcGIS offers a number of capabilities that make it easier for council employees to find information, share data and collaborate internally and externally
The first stage was to build on the success of ENC’s GIS (Geographic Information System) with a joint GIS that would replace BCW’s outdated one, which suffered from poor system controls and protocols. The objectives were to provide a robust foundation to improve customer service, deliver internal efficiencies and build a platform for future investment.
LocalView Fusion makes life easier for the public and saves us a significant amount of time in providing advanced mapping for our websites
Mark Young – GIS Officer at East Northamptonshire Council
The two authorities selected, installed and integrated Esri UK’s LocalView 2 to successfully deliver online services, so that by 2010, they were using the same GIS system. Soon, the GIS team wanted to take advantage of new data sharing initiatives with neighbouring councils and third parties, so they upgraded to ArcGIS 10 and LocalView Fusion. This can further improve the availability of information and online services, improving the overall customer experience by delivering complex GIS information via a simple user interface. By increasing citizen self-service, streamlining internal processes and aligning service delivery with demand, it reduces costs too.
Upgrading to ArcGIS Server 10 and LocalView Fusion places us in a future-proof position
Mark Young – GIS Officer at East Northamptonshire Council
Easily embedded maps
The GIS team was impressed at how easy Fusion made it to embed maps into any web page. Templates are used to create and publish maps, removing nearly all the manual coding and configuration previously required, saving a significant amount of time. The resulting maps are easier to use, too: e.g. citizens can find locations of doctors using A-Z listings, rather than going to a separate application. “LocalView Fusion’s new templates are a straightforward way for even non-expert users to create an interactive map for a website”, commented Mark Young, GIS Officer at ENC. “Geographical functionality can also be quickly distributed to multiple areas of our sites by using a simple cut and paste process.”
Citizen self-service typically costs £0.32 per transaction, compared with face-to-face at £7.40 per transaction and telephone at £2.90, and it provides a better service too. Personalisation via postcode, RSS feeds and online surveys gives up-to-date, integrated information on property, council services and amenities, in an easily understood format. Mark Young adds, “When a customer uses a map, they’re now easier to navigate, more intuitive and are full screen. Fusion’s built-in cache also speeds up the drawing of base maps and loads them a lot quicker, with faster zooming between different scales – great for users who have slower broadband speeds.”
The ‘report a fault’ function can now be tailored to provide questions specific to the request. Customers can upload photos relating to complaints, e.g. of graffiti or potholes, to help staff locate and deal with incidents more effectively. Fusion’s ability to link directly from any page to the councils’ payment websites has eliminated the need for payment via telephone or separate payments page.
RSS feeds can be configured to alert staff to almost any type of event, such as new planning applications. They can also search across multiple types of data in one map – a big step forward from only having one layer of information displayed at a time.
“Upgrading to ArcGIS Server 10 and LocalView Fusion places us in a future-proof position”, commented Mark Young. “The added capability of WFS (Web Feature Service) will allow the sharing of live GI data with other strategic agencies and will allow for more strategic decision making, therefore providing a sound return on investment.”
“The ability to have multiple map layers displayed at the same time will prove particularly useful when displaying our Local Development Framework”, said Daniel Ray, Planning Policy and Conservation Assistant. “Surveys can also be configured to record the public’s views on proposed policies within the LDF. Any areas which are of particular interest will be logged as points and we can see at a glance where these areas are.” There are also plans to integrate Fusion with the councils’ Customer Relationship Management systems to streamline the process of fault reporting, reducing manual input and its associated costs.
Mark Young concludes that LocalView Fusion “supports better use of geographic information in general, to increase self-service and lower our operating costs. We can also share data more freely within our organisation and with others in the future.”