3 advantages of innovative geomapping for municipalities and citizens

The coronavirus pandemic prompted many municipalities to improve their digital services for residents and business owners. New digital solutions allow municipalities to work more efficiently and better meet the needs of the end users: their citizens. Skilful use of public data and geomapping – in other words, making this data visual – makes it possible to convert it into interactive, smart digital maps. This results in new digital applications that allow requests to the municipality to be fully digitalised and simplified for the end user. This article describes three advantages of the wider use of geo-mapping for municipalities, so they can better serve their citizens. Keep on reading.

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Using open data and geographic information systems

Smart digital maps are based on open data in a geographic information system (GIS). First, it is good to take a look at the concept of open data. You could probably guess that open data is also public data. That means there are no copyrights or rights of third parties attached to it. The data is collected so municipalities – and the police and other government bodies – can do their work properly. Open data is publicly funded and freely accessible to residents, journalists and other interested parties.

There are several technical aspects to be considered when using open data. The data must be readable by search engines and there must be no barriers to its use in new ICT applications. Open data is used in municipalities’ GIS applications, among other things.

Take the Municipality of The Hague, which has set up the Open Data Management Unit to share as much information as possible about the city, with the city. They use GIS to allow new applications to be developed in order to make better decisions and increase administrative transparency. As a result, citizen initiatives are facilitated more effectively. The tagline ‘Working together with data’, used on the website of the Municipality of The Hague, sums up the mission well. In addition to that municipality, countless government agencies are already using geomapping of open data. But how can these geomaps be used more comprehensively to serve the public even better.

Example: Event Map for the Municipality of The Hague

Some years ago, the Municipality of The Hague wanted to speed up the application process for event permits. At the time, the application for organising an event was made via a form. If the information was unclear or incorrect, the application was returned and the form had to be filled in again. That could certainly be more efficient.

The decision was made to use the city's GIS as the foundation for a new application: the Event Map. Permit applicants use the Event Map to fully design their event application. The tool allows users to draw a map of the event on which they can place facilities like the first aid station, the bar and food trucks, and indicate where the stage will be. With this tool, open data and geomapping are used more extensively to digitally assist residents and business owners with their permit applications.

This application enables the Municipality of The Hague to digitise not only event permits but other permit applications as well. An example is the application for a terrace permit. Restaurant owners can submit applications and report changes to their terraces to the municipality in a similar way to the Event Map. There are endless possibilities for using geomapping as a foundation for new digital products. But what exactly are the advantages of the wider use of geomapping in digital applications?

1. Better participation and relationship with citizens

The main advantage of incorporating geomaps in new applications is that the relationship with citizens changes for the better. Consider the Event Map, where citizens are closely involved in the entire application process. When the applicant draws the map, the completed address is automatically loaded in the geomap on the application form. This lets citizens see which busy roads or public buildings are near the event. If something is drawn that overlaps with a busy thoroughfare, for example, an error message pops up to indicate that the application will probably not be approved. This feature makes it easier for citizens to understand why the municipality makes certain choices. That strengthens participation and the relationship with the municipality.

2. Accelerating the digitalisation of services by the municipality

Another advantage of the wider use of geomapping in applications is that processes are accelerated and services for citizens automatically improve. The Event Map ensures that everything is signed, sent and handled in a digital way. Take the example of the error message described above. Based on the information in that message, the applicant can immediately make the appropriate adjustments to the map. Upon submission, the municipality will approve the application more quickly because the drawing has already been modified. Using geomapping in the drawing tool provides transparency and acceleration. A win-win for citizens and the municipality!

3. Reusable digital applications based on the Common Ground principle

The use of open data is increasingly becoming the norm. As mentioned above, there must be no barriers to using open data in new ICT applications. The data must be easy to use for new applications so they can be reused for different municipalities. When data is decoupled from work processes and applications, this is very much in line with the Common Ground principle. This principle means that municipalities work together on the provision of municipal information. Preferably in a way that already exists; there is no need to reinvent the wheel for each application.

The Common Ground principle lends itself perfectly to using different geomaps as the basis for a new application. That makes the wider use of geomapping an interesting option for smaller municipalities. To give an example: the foundation of the Event Map is reused for the Terrace Map that is yet to be built. These tools are both being built for the Municipality of The Hague, but other municipalities can easily use them as well. The possibilities for the wider use of geomapping are endless!

Would you like to know more about how you can use open data in geomapping to create new digital applications for the citizens in your municipality? Then contact our experts. We would love to discuss your ideas with you!

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