Thursday, July 10, 2014

Minister Turnbull launches brilliant #opendata National Map of Australia - plugs GovHack 2014

Yesterday Minister Turnbull announced the launch of the NationalMap beta - a project jointly developed by the Department of Communications and NICTA to create a single authoritative geographic view of Australia from an open data perspective.

The Minister said the Map was "part of the Government’s commitment to increasing the number of publicly available datasets."

The NationalMap beta, available at, aggregates datasets from Geoscience Australia, the Department of Meteorology, the Department of Communication, Australian Bureau of Statistics and a host of other agencies via

Ranging from topographic features to transportation networks and infrastructure to statistical boundaries (including the ABS's new mesh blocks), all of the datasets are available as open data and can be individually downloaded from within the map interface using their respective 'info' links.

There's also a link to 'Add data' to the Map, which I presume allows a user to upload custom data sets to display, although I could not get this to work.

The NationalMap is built on an open source stack of technologies, including Geoserver, Cesium and Leaflet. NICTA are contributing to these projects where relevant to help improve their capabilities.

In my view the site looks great.

I like the fisheye lens 3D approach used by default, and this can be easily switched to 2D if people prefer. The navigational controls are standard for online maps and the interface is simple to use, though a lack of visible labels means users have to mouseover each icon individually to find out what they do.

The NationalMap did load and update slowly when I used it, particularly as more layers of data were added. Given this is a beta, and presumably hosted on a lower end server with limited bandwidth, this was neither surprising nor a major problem.

Overall I think the NationalMap beta is a great step forward for Australia and provides a rich source of reusable open data for GovHack this weekend.

Hopefully this is only a taste of the projects the Coalition government is championing within government as there's tremendous value to be found in open data, if agencies receive a clear mandate to release it for reuse.

There are so many opportunities right now to use Gov 2.0 approaches to empower businesses and communities to more proactively engage in government policy development, service delivery and self-management. If the government can realise these with a clear and mandated agenda, Australia will be in a strong economic position for years to come.

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