Friday, February 05, 2010

Victoria launches VisualPlace pilot - demonstrating the value of sharing geospatial data

I was alerted to the release of VisualPlace at the start of this week, and have spent the last few days playing with the site to get a feel for its potential.

From the site, VisualPlace's purpose is to, the value of an interactive GIS-enabled service for the visualisation of location-based government information.
The site will test the appetite for online Graphical Information Systems (GIS) showing government data and both demonstrate what is possible and seek user feedback on what the public would like to see in such tools.

VisualPlace takes a wide variety of already publicly available data from sources such as the ABS and Vic Health and merges it into a layer-based view over a map of Victoria.

This makes the site highly versatile, you can search for services, transport links and health or educational information as well as check out population and economic data from across the state. These can be mapped as heat maps, 'vertical extrusions' or 'shaded icons' across local government areas or the entire state.

VisualPlace is also inviting people to submit ideas for additional data sets to model and is asking government agencies to make their data available to make the experience richer and more useful.

The site is built using Microsoft Silverlight - which may limit its reach due to Silverlight's low penetration rates. In fact it is possible that many large corporate and government offices do not yet include Silverlight as part of their standard desktop environment and it doesn't always work correctly across all major web browsers.

My only other concern is with the range of options available compared to the ease of use of the interface. There's simply so many selections - data to view, filters, visualisation techniques - that an average user may become confused or may simply not realise what is possible.

If the interface can be simplified I believe more people will find the application useful. For example by having three buttons for the different visualisation approaches that show pictures of what they do and can be easily clicked between rather than having them hidden in dropdowns without explanation of the end result.

Overall this is a very important experiment for government and hopefully will be widely promoted in order to gather as much intelligence as possible.

1 comment:

  1. I agree about the complexity of the interface. While I found it fun to play with, I wouldn't like to put it on a public-facing site. As someone who works in Vic Gov web, I'd be more interested in it as a tool we might use to present our own data geospatially.

    Also, I wish they hadn't used silverlight.