It’s not so often that a more cost-effective means of delivering customer services also creates measurable improvements in customer satisfaction. However, continuing developments in GIS technology, and specifically in web mapping, provide both through smart, self-service solutions.
With the advent of Google Maps and Bing, people across all walks of life have been exposed to the advantages of having a GIS solution in their hand-held devices, tablets and computers. This wide-spread exposure has increased consumer familiarity and appetite for information in map form¬.
Local governments have been quite successful in capitalizing on this trend to improve service and savings—and, businesses across industries can benefit from following their lead. Here is a quick look at how web mapping is helping government improve communications and services.
Informing citizens through interactive web maps
Municipalities are using web mapping to provide a wealth of information online. This provides citizens with self-service 24/7 access to frequently asked questions, reduces phone calls to government offices, and enables GIS analysts to refocus their efforts on more challenging mapping and analytical tasks.
For example, Barnsley Council, the governing body for a municipality in England, created MyProperty, a service whereby citizens can enter their postcode to gain instant access to essential information about their area, including, schools doctors and service schedules.
Citizens of Barnsley can now also use Barnsley Council Interactive Maps. This interactive web mapping service enables them to activate overlays on top of a detailed map of the area. For example, by clicking on ‘police stations,’ they can instantly see station locations on the map. Other overlay options include ‘waste recycling sites’, ‘highway closure diversions’ and ‘pedestrian areas’. They can view aerial photography and historical mapping of the region as well as basic maps. In total, Barnsley now has more than 100 internet pages with embedded maps.
Examples of other potential GIS and web mapping applications for government include:
- Allowing citizens to report potholes, noise and crime complaints using an online map to record the location of these.
- Showing constituents where stimulus and tax money is being spent for a better understanding of projects close to home.
- Providing them with a comprehensive mapping application that shows the locations of road construction projects that may cause traffic delays.
Businesses have the opportunity to use these types of tools to communicate with their customers, suppliers and with internal personnel—providing far more robust information online than comes with a standard site locator.
Tracking and tackling problems
Barnsley and numerous other local government entities worldwide also use GIS technology to manage centralized catalogues of spatial data and provide geographic analysis and web mapping for internal operational and decision making purposes. This, in turn, enables them to serve their constituents better.
The British Transport Police, for example, has reduced disruption to train services by creating an accurate addressing system using location intelligence and web mapping. They can now exactly pinpoint incident locations and resolve them much faster than in the past. This has improved the scheduling of resources and minimized disruption to rail transport.
Governments can now collect detailed location information from mobile work crews and police force in order to deploy the best staff to a worksite. Response to fires, accidents and other emergencies can be expedited by using GIS solutions to map fastest routes for service and evacuations. Web mapping solutions also help in evaluating best locations for new service centers, optimizing traffic patterns and usage. Barnsley Council, for example, now uses web mapping across its organization. More than 45 business users across ten different internal services at Barnsley use web mapping for visualization, communication and decision making.
All of these capabilities can play a role in the commercial sector as well. From site and route planning, to sales force distribution and more, GIS, coupled with web mapping can get needed information into the hands of decision makers faster, and free up GIS personnel to focus on the analyses that require the breadth of their expertise.
Citizens are ready to embrace GIS in their government
As consumers continue to be exposed to GIS technology without even realizing what GIS is, they will expect their governments and businesses to provide them with more location intelligence tools. Now these services can often be provided economically and effectively to both consumers and business users through web mapping.
On the government side, these solutions allow for more informed citizens and an increase in citizen satisfaction. The efficient publishing of data also helps organizations to comply with freedom of information or other data requests.
On the business side, they empower decision makers to access certain information on their own—expediting access, reducing costs, and redirecting GIS expertise so that GIS analysts no longer spend valuable time compiling reports or re-publishing data just to provide the most up-to-date information.
For more information and further examples how local governments and businesses across industries are harnessing the value of location intelligence through web mapping, join us on October 30 for Innovations in Web Mapping, an information webinar co-sponsored with Directions Magazine.