PART III: Communication, Priorities, and the Future
Sometimes there is a disconnect in the GIS community around providing tools to make spatial knowledge more accessible to a non-GIS audience. It can be tempting for those creators to transplant their priorities over as the assumed priorities of the users by default, which can lead to trouble. I’ve been impressed with your team’s efforts to categorize and present data, both in terms of content and design, in a way that is clear to your audience, the general public. What considerations did you and your team take in making Brampton Maps approachable and usable for your community, and what recommendations do you have for others who may be working on similar projects?
The best example of this I’ve heard of is a GIS professional was showing his father the brand new web map application he had just launched. He was showing him how you can interact with the map by turning different layers on and off, and his father said, “Why would I want to turn the rivers off?”
We’re trying to publish the map data in a way that is clear to the user. They probably don’t want or need to “turn the rivers off” so we include them in a basemap layer consisting of parks, water features and streets.
We have grouped the map layers in a way that is hopefully easy for people to find the information they need. It’s sort of half departmental and half services driven.
I think it’s best to approach a public facing map portal with less information and not overload the public with every map layer in your GIS. Engage the community and let them tell you what services they actually need, instead of deciding for them.
"Engage the community and let them tell you what services they actually need, instead of deciding for them." Image courtesy GIS Services, on Facebook.
What plans do you have cooking for the future?
We will be introducing our secure maps portal allowing outside agencies to login to manage and consume more sensitive or value added data.
I also like the idea of a SpatialWiki within a Government web portal. I’m interested in how we can implement a community driven map wiki to open up even more lines of communication with the citizens. Building on this, we are investigating how Open Data will benefit the community.
Data collection apps for mobile devices and community driven events are also a few of the things that we would like to offer in the future. I’d also like to offer a service to citizens to upload their geo-tagged photos to our site to build a community photo album that can be browsed on the map.
*The opinions expressed are those of Matthew Pietryszyn and not necessarily those of the Corporation of the City of Brampton.
For more information on Brampton’s GIS Services, check them out on Facebook!