The challenge

Government spatial data is dispersed and hard to access

The government is one of the largest data collectors in Australia, gathering information across all functions and departments. However, there was no centralised way of accessing this data or easy way for the community to access it.

Spatial data is information that relates to particular geographical areas, for example by postcode, local council area, or electorate.

Keeping the information within these diverse government databases locked up and separated prevents gathering insights, streamlining services, improving processes, leveraging resources and otherwise improving efficiencies.

Our response

Building the NationalMap

Working for the Department of Communications and the Arts (now currently managed by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet) – and closely with our partner Geoscience Australia – we aimed to bring together dispersed information, collected and produced by governments at all levels and in all functions, into an easily searchable, viewable and fully customisable map-based view.

We developed National Map, which pulls data from government bodies around the country to give a single view of information available that is visualised by location.  ©NICTA

We designed the NationalMap to be a fully open framework. It connects directly to data servers at each government agency using open protocols and open data formats, and provides the data in fully accessible ways to allow for use outside of the NationalMap.

The NationalMap software uses our TerriaJSTM software and Cesium, an open source WebGL virtual globe and map engine, which we’re co-developing with an international community of developers.

NationalMap currently provides access to over 4000 data sets from over 30 government agencies.

The data includes broadband coverage, locations of surface water and waste management facilities, and electoral boundaries.

As well as getting data directly from government agencies, the NationalMap draws any spatial data available at , the Australian Government's data aggregation project.

The results

Visualising Australia

Delivering this volume of data into the hands of the community, software developers and industry enables innovation and boosts government and industry productivity.

Several startup businesses are already using our software and the data that has been made available, filling previously unidentified needs within the community.

The NationalMap website incentivises the government to release more data, in a searchable and reusable format, into the community, by providing a preview for spatial data sets aggregated through .

Other custom mapping systems for specific industries or agencies have been built on top of the NationalMap using the same software and data services. For example, the Australian Renewable Energy Mapping Infrastructure (AREMI) for ARENA, National Environmental Information Infrastructure (NEII) for the Bureau of Meteorology, and the Northern Australia Map for Austrade. The National Drought Map is another example that has been successfully launched. We worked with the Joint Agency Drought Taskforce to bring together disparate information to help monitor conditions and deliver support to drought-affected areas that need it most. These various mapping systems have been developed quickly and cheaply by leveraging the NationalMap network of data services.

Into the future, the NationalMap website could assist with the visualisation of environmental information, including ecosystem mapping, koala movements, salinity measurements and air quality readings.

We're also investigating building specialised NationalMap-based products that cater to different verticals. The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources and the TerriaJS team at CSIRO's Data61 are expanding the features available in National Map, with the updated version set to be available by December 2020. One of the new datasets added maps Australia's active, emerging and planned innovation hubs.

You can access the current version of the Australian Government's NationalMap at .

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