Torfaen County Council uses web GIS to boost savings and service
Every summer, as thousands of Velothon participants pedal through Pontypool, thousands more have their eyes on the Torfaen County Borough Council website; its online map has been hailed as the best way to navigate around road closures during the event. But that’s just one of the ways Torfaen uses Spectrum Spatial. Torfaen is leveraging the mobile-ready location intelligence solution from Precisely to further its goals of creating cleaner, greener communities, improving educational attainment, and providing better support for its most vulnerable residents.
At a recent Public Survey Mapping Agreement (PSMA) event in Cardiff, it was evident that councils across Wales are trying to figure out how to transform geographic information systems (GIS) from back-office mapping tools into better business and public-service applications. It’s a challenge that GIS Officer Donna Edwards-John and her team at Torfaen County Borough Council have been dealing with for years. The council’s internal mapping software, used by more than 700 council employees and partners, was an older system that was no longer well supported, and one had to be at the office in Pontypool to use it. That put it out of reach for highways inspectors, public safety officials, social services workers, and many others who needed maps while they were out of the office.
Like most councils, Torfaen also strived to provide location-based information through its public website. Putting services on an interactive map helps residents resolve their enquiries faster and reduces the burden on the council’s call centre staff. Facing tight budgets, Torfaen had tried an open-source mapping solution for its website, believing it to be a less costly way to meet the need. However, as Edwards-John and her peers realized, maintaining the open-source tool and loading data into it came at a greater cost than they had expected. “Free GIS or other open source systems are okay if you’re a developer,” she says, “but in local authorities, we are struggling to staff up due to a lack of resources.” Was it possible, they wondered, to combine both internal and public-facing applications into one flexible system? It would have to be a robust GIS tool, yet be easy for anyone to use, either at a desktop or with a mobile device. It would also have to be available around the clock, without requiring a full-time staff member to maintain it. And, it would have to come in at a lower overall cost to the council