The Case for Web-based Geospatial Solutions

Benefits and Lessons Learned from Public and Private Case Studies
By Bob Ryerson | Published January 15, 2013


KIM GEOMATICS WAS ENGAGED BY THE GEOCONNECTIONS PROGRAM OF Natural Resources Canada to assess the use and benefits of the core components of the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure, and to assess the benefits and value of accessing and sharing geo-information over the Internet. We assessed eight public and private sector projects across Canada and one project in Australia that ranged from wanting to improve operational efficiency, to research and analysis, to access to timely and quality geospatial data such as Earth imagery.

The organizations reviewed included a county government for a large primarily rural municipality, a province in Canada, a state in Australia where disasters caused considerable damage, a national parks agency, as well as a variety of small companies developing products and services for a variety of clients ranging from recreational users to First Nations that have settled land claims in Canada. It is rare that we have the occasion to review geospatial technology implementations at this scale and across so many organizations.


While the geospatial solutions adopted were implemented for a variety of reasons, and differed from organization to organization, a number of common benefits and lessons learned were revealed by our assessment. See Figure 1 for a summary of the specific objectives, solutions adopted and both benefits and lessons learned for each of the case studies.

The benefits of geospatial data are often difficult to quantify because the data touch a variety of users and departments that result in both tangible and intangible benefits. Tangible benefits range from pure dollar savings, to increased productivity, and new product and service development. Intangible benefits include better communication, better access to information and better understanding of issues that result in meeting corporate and public policy objectives.


While geospatial information is now being used daily by smartphone users for directions and location-based services, adopting geospatial technology solutions in an organizational environment is still very much a change management issue. Many of the lessons learned in implementing these solutions are associated with resistance to change and new technology adoption.


The Benefits

The majority of the projects assessed were undertaken by organizations that already had geospatial technologies in place and sought to consolidate their geospatial databases and improve access to the data to a wider audience. The tangible and intangible benefits include:


Budgeting and Shared Costs Across Organizations and Departments

  • Acquiring and creating geospatial data is expensive. Maintaining the data is equally expensive and often departments hold multiple licenses to the same data. A Web- based infrastructure results in the sharing of data, and the sharing of costs associated with creating that data.
  • Increased Productivity, Operational and Cost Savings

  • Lowers the cost of research for many important social and environmental issues and problems;
  • Increases the range of potential research topics that can be addressed at low cost.
  • Market Intelligence

  • Can result in industry’s better understanding of the market niche it serves;
  • Can lead to the development of new products and services.
  • Accuracy and Access to Data

  • Because maintaining geospatial data is expensive, often geospatial databases are out of date, which frustrates users. A Web-based system makes geospatial data more accurate because it’s easier and faster to find, and available to more of the population.
  • Improved Communications and Decision Making

  • Can allow policy makers and others to better visualize a situation for faster and improved decisions;
  • Contributes to education and understanding of important issues and concerns.
  • Improved Environmental Monitoring, Planning and Management

  • Leads to a better understanding of our cities, environment, and natural resources;
  • Can contribute to the better understanding of disasters and their impacts for future planning as well as for targeting resources for recovery and reconstruction;
  • Can provide information to the populace concerning disasters and the current situation at various locations.
  • Public Policy Objectives

  • Facilitate government reaching out to citizens; 
  • Contribute to transparency in government; 
  • Can provide a basis for national and international understanding of complex issues; 
  • Help governments meet treaty and other legal obligations, both domestic and international.

  • Lessons Learned

    The lessons learned by the organizations assessed indicate that enterprise and government adoption of geospatial technologies, and the updating of existing geospatial capabilities, is still complex due to...

    The complete article is available in the Fall 2012 LBx Journal Digital Edition.