Intersection of Public Administration and Technology

An article by Time Magazine online describes how the town of Nanaimo, British Columbia, has integrated lots of information with Google Earth and Google Maps.

This is rather incredible. To run down the article, the Canadian city of Nanaimo has released lots of information that can be used in Google Earth. This informations includes an RSS feed (see an introduction to RSS feeds here) of Nanaimo Fire and Rescue responses, a Google Map applet to show the response RSS feed on a map, and lots of planning data. Here is more information on the planning data:

The city’s planning department has, over the past five years, steadily fed Google a wealth of information about its buildings, property lines, utilities and streets. The result is earth.nanaimo.ca, a clearing house of city data viewed through the robust and freely available Google Earth 3D mapping program. The site sorts and maps every business, from restaurants to car dealers, while a click of the mouse brings up the lot size for every property in the city, including the building permit number and zoning history. Homeowners can use the facility to find out specific information about their garbage collection schedule, while the city’s 150-year-old downtown core is rendered in 3D and dotted with 360-degree panoramas.

This planning data can be found here in files that are meant to be imported into Google Earth.

The RSS feed of incident responses, updated 24/7, might be the neatest of these. Citizens can get data on traffic accidents and other emergencies, and even see the time of callout, location, description, and equipment dispatched (including firetrucks, EMS units, and even officers).

In fact, here is a Google Map of the current data about fire and rescue callouts (this updates continuously, so you are always watching the locations of fire trucks and EMS units in Nanaimo):

The city of Nanaimo is betting that by making this data more available that they can encourage business growth, increased development, and more tourism.

Warning: rant follows.

This is so interesting and incredible. Governments often refuse to open their data (data that is most likely an open record anyway) to public purview, use proprietary formats that are expensive to gain access to, and sometimes only allow viewing of the data through crappy websites that are hard to use and poorly designed, like Gwinnett County’s GIS data browser. You’d think that instead of wasting money on their own departments that design ugly and inaccessible web applications, they would allow open access to their data and use well established, open (often), and FREE software.

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