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technology by George Kouroupis GIS A Geographic Approach to Open Government Being more "open" has become a key priority for governments, at all levels, worldwide today. In Canada, we're seeing significant traction in the movement to open government in the municipal space, with several cities embarking on initiatives that will help them enhance transparency, provide citizen-centric services, and increase citizen engagement. In addition to people, policies, and methodologies, technology is a key enabler of open government. In Canada, 28 million Canadians, (representing 83 percent of the population), use the internet, and over 21 million have mobile phones, according to a 2009 Statistics Canada report. Web technologies have enabled immediate access to a broad range of information, services, and applications. Municipalities are trying to exploit these technologies to allow access to their data and communicate more effectively with their citizens. But, this is not just a one-way conversation, where government simply pushes information to the public. Citizens, in turn, must be given the opportunity to George Kouroupis is Technology and Solutions Director for ESRI Canada, which provides enterprise geographic information system (GIS) solutions. He has over 30 years of experience in GIS, software development and consulting. George also heads ESRI Canada's Community Maps Program. leverage this information and provide feedback. Governments opening their data, particularly geographic data, facilitate interactive communication with citizens. This can only lead to increased citizen engagement with their governments. Another technology increasingly being leveraged for open data initiatives is the geographic information system or GIS. It is widely used for mapping land use, natural resources, public infrastructure, and municipal assets. The technology enables users to manage, visualize, analyze, and publish vast amounts of data. In addition to being deployed on individual desktops and corporate servers, recent advancements have allowed GIS to be accessed over the web, on mobile smartphones, and in the emerging cloud infrastructure. Its high scalability and powerful functionality make GIS an efficient platform for information sharing, collaborative decision making, and innovation. Making GIS data open and freely available to the public is an excellent opportunity for governments to involve citizens and obtain Volunteered Geographic Information. This involves citizens contributing their geographic knowledge and content, which gets mashed-up with open maps data, resulting in richer and more meaningful maps. Imagine every citizen as a sensor providing scientific information or observations to an online map from their mobile device or computer. Such information could be valuable during emergencies, such as an earthquake, and could assist emergency staff in quickly locating victims, effectively planning evacuations, and addressing other related emergencies. Connecting Through Maps With 80 percent of information having a spatial component, many municipalities rely on GIS to manage the information they collect and open to the public. The data is used to make better decisions about land use, environmental management, economic development, health care delivery, asset management, elections planning, and community outreach. GIS can help better manage resources and assets to build a sustainable future. The technology supports democratizing data by providing a cost-effective means for sharing geographic information with the public. The District of North Vancouver recognized this early on. Viewing geographic information as June 2011 Municipal World 15

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