Skip to main content

Three methods – unlimited use

Learn about different ways to interact with data using ArcGIS.

For several years now, many organizations have wanted to demonstrate more transparency. The data accessibility movement fits into this inclination. There are different ways for an organization to make its data accessible. Also, not all data can be made accessible in the same way. In fact, the use of certain sensitive information must be further regulated, while an organization has every interest in making other public datasets available without any restriction. In this post, we will review three tools that are available in the ArcGIS system that allow you to showcase your data.

ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World

ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World is a platform on which you can interact with several types of information: election results, socio-demographic information, meteorological data, among others. The content on the platform comes from various official sources, including Esri Canada and public organizations. Added content is reviewed by our curator, responsible for maintaining and updating the catalog.

ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World interface

Depending on the level of access that has been previously configured, you can export data in other formats from ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World, open the data in ArcGIS Pro, display it in the map viewer from ArcGIS Online and download it.

A window that contains details of the data found in the ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World.

Example: bring your research forward

Let’s begin with Xavier, a doctorate student in a Canadian university. As part of his research, he wants to have a portrayal of the origin of people who have immigrated to Canada since the mid-20th century. ArcGIS Living Atlas contains numerous layers of information on this subject.

Data on immigration, 1956, open in  ArcGIS Online map viewer

He then identifies the data he wants to study more deeply. Once he has identified the data layers needed for his studies, he integrates them directly into an ArcGIS Pro project. Xavier is now able to perform on this immigration data the spatial analyses necessary to extend his subject of study. A few months (or years!) later, Xavier has finally completed his doctorate. To highlight the results obtained during these years of hard work, he created a StoryMap with ArcGIS StoryMaps, an interactive app available in ArcGIS Online which allows to bring forward interactive mapping support as well as different media such as text, photos and videos. Once the app is completed, Xavier is now ready to share his knowledge on the internet. He decided to submit his StoryMap to our ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World content curator. The content is finally approved and is now available on the Living Atlas website.

A project on permafrost available in the Living Atlas, submitted by a Université Laval student

Community Map of Canada

The Community Map of Canada is a unique way to showcase your data. It is a vector basemap available in ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Pro as well as ArcGIS Enterprise. What is particular about this basemap is that it is contributed to by organizations that act as data authorities: federal and provincial governments, municipal organizations, First Nations, universities, as well as port and airport authorities. By becoming contributors, these organizations can provide their various data, such as road network, building footprints, address points, cycling paths and many others. These layers are then displayed in the community basemap. The basemap can then be used as a reference layer in web apps. Here, we can think of interactive apps available on a municipality’s website with the intention of informing residents about the services offered in their area. Note that the data contributed to the vector background are only displayed. They cannot be downloaded and the attributes cannot be viewed.

Example: saving on time and resources

To better understand how the Community Map of Canada works, let’s look at Hélène, who is in charge of land use planning, and also geomatics within a regional county municipality (RCM). Hélène holds two positions which, although complementary, do not allow her to devote as much time to geomatics as she would like. Once the regional plan for wetlands and bodies of water is in production, the RCM asks her to build an app that summarizes the completed work and highlights the results obtained. Hélène does not have much time but wants to produce a user-friendly app to reach the widest possible audience. She therefore decides to join the community map of Canada and contributes the layer of wetlands obtained within the framework of the regional plan for wetlands and bodies of water as well as the layer of the road network of the RCM.

View of the Community map of Canada. Here, the buildings, the road network, the bodies of water, provided by the city of Rouyn-Noranda.

Open Data with ArcGIS Online

When a person is looking for municipal data, their first instinct will be to check that municipality’s website. The ArcGIS Online open data portal allows you to create a user-friendly page where it will be easy to interact with your data. In fact, the portal gives its users not only the possibility of downloading the data, but also of previewing it directly in a map viewer. They will also be able to add filters to the data as well as preview the attributes.

Example: for a more transparent organization

Let’s take Albert’s example, a GIS specialist in a municipality known for its vacation resorts. The municipality is growing rapidly and Albert receives many calls from several types of stakeholders: surveyors, real estate developers and residents who want to have access to various details about the city. Many people contact the City by email or telephone to request access to this information. The municipality then decides to make its data available to free up time for the employees who must take action in this process. Like many other organizations, the municipality realized that it was more expensive to sell the data than to make it available for free, as the administrative tasks to process payment and delivery proved to be time-consuming and costly. The municipality then decides to make available its urbanizable areas, the location of its infrastructures, its elevations and so on. Albert first deposits this data into ArcGIS Online and then makes it available in the municipality's open data portal. A few months pass and the municipality finds that it now has fewer incoming calls and emails. In addition, it notices that the citizens who contact them are more prepared, having been able to get information from the municipal website before their call. Calls are therefore also shorter. All this makes it possible to give back valuable time to employees who can now devote themselves to other crucial tasks for the organization.

Open data available in the Interactive Truro hub

We have summarized some of the situations that we have heard many times from our customers. What are your present and future projects related to sharing your data? Do not hesitate to contact us to discuss it.

You can also watch the recording of our French webinar - "Not all treasure is silver & gold – A webinar about data" here and learn more about two treasure troves of free, authoritative data–ArcGIS Living Atlas and Community Map of Canada–which can help you transform your maps and apps into golden innovations to further support your municipality and community.

This post was written in French by Frederic Blouin-Michaud and can be viewed here.