Using open source GIS in the public sector

logoWith over 4,000 Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) members, we see a huge range of uses for OS data in the public sector, making efficiency and cost savings. We’re also aware of a wide range of geographic information systems (GIS) being used by members to manage their geodata needs. One of our PSMA members, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, migrated to using open source GIS in 2015 and has found significant efficiencies in staff time, cost savings and an increase in the number of departments using OS data.

Why was an open source GIS solution needed?

It started in 2012 with a well-known situation for a local authority – needing to provide a wide range of services against a reduced budget. This was set against a backdrop of an increasing demand for geographic data to help the authority make analytical decisions across multiple departments. The Council started to investigate open source technologies, and decided that QGIS with PostGIS would be the best for them.

By late 2015 all staff were using QGIS and PostGIS and could continue to access OS MasterMap, OS VectorMap Local and all of the OS products that they were using previously. There has been an increase of 225% in GIS users and the Council now has over 130 users, spread across most departments. Users have already seen benefits from greater access to data as then now have read-only access to 90% of all GIS layers.

How do the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council use GI?

Multiple departments now use GI in a whole variety of ways. Elections administration use GIS to cross-reference council tax addresses; open source technology is used for public facing web mapping; Trading Standards have found time savings for investigating properties and locations; and the list goes on.


Other departments, such as the Trees Section and planning department, have increased the number of GIS users, enabling more people to quickly answer queries and freeing up time for people working off-site.

In the case of the Waste Management department, they had never used GIS before. They now use open source technology to add Veolia data into PostGIS and view in QGIS. The team aim to migrate from capturing data within a spreadsheet, to capturing the data in GIS. The GIS team has helped to produce maps for the team (which has also stimulated interest in GIS) based on data collected on tonnage of waste collected across the Borough.

Simon Miles, GIS Developer at Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council, told us:
“There are a number of factors that have contributed to the success of Open-Source GIS being used at Windsor and Maidenhead. The migration to a virtualised IT infrastructure has meant that the Council is one step closer to being in a position to deploy a desktop GIS to every council user, including third-party contractors. Changes to the working environment in terms of an open-plan office and hot-desking, has meant that departmental silos have broken down and exposed GIS to a wider audience. With greater access to spatial data, staff are benefiting and as a result are themselves delivering a range of efficiencies.”

This is just one of many ways that geographic data can support the delivery of services across Britain. There are many more examples available on our Case Studies page on the website.

If you would like to find out more about the PSMA, and who is eligible to join, click here.

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1 Response

  1. Pingback : Inputs invited for “The need for National level strategy for Open Principles in Geospatial” | ICA Commission on Open Source Geospatial Technologies

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