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Open-source GIS enables new usage of Ordnance Survey data within Neath Port Talbot Council

  • The introduction of open-source GIS software has allowed us to provide GIS and mapping to far more staff and services than we could have afforded to do if we had remained with proprietary GIS. It has been a major step forward

    Kevin Williams, Business Consultant and Team Leader

With a drive for efficiency savings and a need for more council services to use geographical information systems (GIS), open-source software has enabled more departments within the council to start using GIS for the first time. Benefits include the increase in GIS usage by more than 250%, reduced licensing costs and the creation of a single central repository for the council’s spatial data, removing duplication.

The challenge

In recent years the council found that its corporate GIS was not cost-effective as there were a low number of technical users. There were departments within the council that could benefit from GIS and mapping but paying for extra desktop licences was prohibiting new usage. With this in mind, the GIS team decided to investigate open-source GIS due to its compatibility with Ordnance Survey data.

The solution

Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) products and OS OpenData data formats enable easy integration with open-source software. Therefore, the council considered a number of options for operating systems, GIS desktop, spatial database and middleware.

Initially, the decision to go with open-source software raised a number of questions, such as, is training available and does open-source use standards? The GIS team was able to alleviate these concerns, as the open community provides shared knowledge, resources and ideas.

In the past, due to financial reasons, the council had only obtained 30 single seat licences and some pooled licences. Its new GIS has enabled over 120 users to benefit from mapping, including 90 new users, with more to follow. For the first time, many departments are realising the benefits of GIS, giving them access to PSMA products and council data and helping them to speed up processes.

GIS and Ordnance Survey data is now being used by the Emergency Planning & Joint Resilience, Communities First, Play Development, Trading Standards, Environmental Health, Education, planning policy, CRM staff, Estates, Engineering, biodiversity departments and other departments that traditionally didn’t use GIS. The Social Services department has used OS VectorMap Local for its home care program, assisting it to redesign care areas and ensure that providers are in the right place for those that need it. The council’s Local Development Plan, for the first time, has been produced using GIS and Ordnance Survey datasets, such as OS MasterMap Topography Layer.

The benefits

  • PSMA data and open-source software have enabled over 250% more users of Ordnance Survey data.
  • At least eight more departments now use Ordnance Survey data for council services.
  • The first year realised substantial savings due to a reduction in third-party maintenance.
  • There are maintenance savings for year two and beyond.
  • The council has decommissioned legacy physical servers and introduced virtual servers, with more resilience, flexibility and expansion capabilities.
  • Open-source GIS has allowed a single view of Ordnance Survey data and the authority’s spatial data.
  • There is an excellent platform for future INSPIRE services.

The products used

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