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Department of Telecommunications and Information Services

Expanding the Role of


Open Source GIS in Government

Abstract

The City and County of San Francisco has recently embarked on an adoption of
Free and Open Source Software for GIS (FOSS4G) for web-based geospatial
presentation (WebGIS). There have been two primary drivers for this approach:
economic pressures to innovate as well as a higher usability standard set by the
Google Map interface.

Numerous enterprise purveyors of geospatial information, particularly those in


the government sector, are at similar crossroads. End users have come to
expect web-based mapping applications that are intuitive and responsive. The
legacy WebGIS of the City (developed in 2001) have been described by end-
users as ‘slow’ and ‘complicated’. In reviewing alternatives it became clear that
FOSS4G was a viable technology refresh option. While the legacy applications
continue to serve maps and related data to the public, prototyping of the
FOSS4G stack (PostGreSQL, PostGIS, GeoServer, TileCache and OpenLayers),
began in October 2007. Within six months of work on the development of the
FOSS4G stack it became clear that a FOSS4G application was eligible for pilot
consideration.

The City found through its research efforts, that FOSS4G development was
experiencing rapid and dynamic growth, with an engaged developer community.
Many other municipalities were in the process or had already put in place
FOSS4G-based applications serving the public. In concert with these
applications, municipalities were providing machine-readable formatted data
over the web (GeoRSS, KML, GML), which could be harnessed for use in other
types of applications, including decision support systems.

During the search for candidate pilot departments the potential emerged for a
larger role for WebGIS within the broader decision support context. WebGIS is
well positioned to become the man-machine interface of choice for complex
decision visualization. Executive decision-makers have made clear their need to
view data roll-ups not only through text reports, but also via the powerful
visualization provided by interactive mapping. With the integration of
complementary open source modules such as Customer Relationship
Management (CRM), Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS)
and Business Intelligence (BI) FOSS4G is well suited to evolve civil asset
management from reactive to proactive.

Chief Consulting Officer Page 1 of 2


Blair Adams Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Department of Telecommunications and Information Services

By augmenting the capabilities of WebGIS in order to go beyond the ‘where’


question to include who, what, when and cost a broader decision support system
will be well-positioned with cost conscious executive leadership. Expanding the
role of an open source GIS would serve to demonstrate increased innovation
through cooperative crowd-sourcing of software development while providing
better service to constituents and a greater return on investment through cost
savings found in proactive civil asset management model.

Contributors: Blair Adams, Jay Nath, Jeff Johnson, & Paul McCullough

Geospatial Decision Support Conceptual Diagram

Customer 3. Where?

1. Who?
CRM GIS
4. When
Rollup
Reports
(1-5)
2. What? 5. Cost?

CMMS

BI

Chief Consulting Officer Page 2 of 2


Blair Adams Wednesday, May 21, 2008

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