Western Australia’s SLIP Enabler Transforms how Government Uses and Shares Spatial Information

By Mark Ducksbury

_Landgate is a Western Australian Statutory Authority responsible for maintaining the State's official register of land ownership and survey information. Landgate is also responsible for providing accurate and timely land and property information, a secure land titles system and land valuation services. Through Landgate and the Western Australian Land Information System (WALIS), the State Government initiated the AU$26million SLIP project in 2005.

All around the globe the pace of life is increasing. As technology advances, there is a growing demand for better, faster and more integrated information. This demand includes data from the spatial information industry, which operates globally and is growing quickly.

The Shared Land Information Platform (SLIP) has transformed the way the Western Australian government uses and shares spatial information. SLIP uses Internet technology for linking agency systems to create a single online access point to real-time land and property information, currently held by various government agencies.

Cutting edge technology provides users and systems with the ability to discover, view and access information from more than 200 datasets within 19 agencies, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of their location.

What makes SLIP possible is the "enabling framework," a common infrastructure known as SLIP Enabler. The Enabler allows the SLIP software and hardware to link the computer systems of the multiple agencies. The key to adopting this shared approach is that agencies can build information systems which integrate land information at a reduced cost once this shared foundation is in place. Agencies save money because they do not have to bear the cost of developing or maintaining the infrastructure, which they would have to do if they were going it alone.

How it Works
SLIP Enabler infrastructure is built on a hybrid warehouse and distributed data model. Key agencies with dynamic datasets have SLIP Enabler infrastructure installed onsite directly "pulling" data from internal dissemination services. The on-site server acts as a virtual private network (VPN) end-point, transferring agency spatial data securely from the live, authoritative source back to SLIP Enabler core service applications. In most cases the data are not copied, they are provided directly (live) from contributing agencies and viewed or accessed through SLIP Enabler.

Figure 1. SLIP Technical Architecture (Click for larger image)

Conversely, smaller and less dynamic datasets are configured to be "pushed" to SLIP Enabler "virtual agency" infrastructure which acts as a data warehouse facility. (In the case of smaller agencies, the data are forwarded through to a server located at Landgate.)This approach allows SLIP Enabler to meet the demands of both small agencies with one dataset updated annually and those with large datasets updated hourly, while optimizing SLIP Enabler's hardware and deployment costs.

The core services tier contains key items including the catalogue, mapviewer and OGC Web Service applications that either interact with, or provide information on, the agency datastores. SLIP Enabler utilizes a variety of applications to serve these purposes:
  • Interragator + (Catalogue): ESRI Geospatial Portal Toolkit
  • WA Atlas (Mapviewer): Amristar iDelve - a java-based GIS Web mapping software client which can be used to build websites and Web-based applications that use spatial data
  • Web Map Services: UMN Mapserver and ERDAS Image Web Server
  • Web Feature Services: Geoserver
Figure 2. WA Atlas (Click for larger image)
SLIP Enabler deploys these applications in a loosely coupled configuration which allows upgrading and even complete application changes with no effect on SLIP users. Each application resides behind a security tier which controls the authentication and authorization for all SLIP Enabler service URLs. There are three service types currently available:
  • Public: These services are publicly available to any user.
  • Restricted: Access rights are imposed to a set number of user groups, such as Emergency Services personnel.
  • Chargeable: Publicly available through a subscription charge
Securing some services to registered accounts allows increased reporting on usage, data volume and response metrics while retaining control over quality of service to customers.

Sample services (registration required for some):
WMSPublic contains over 150 vector based datasets organized into ISO119115 categories from base datasets such as Cadastre, Road centerlines, and Administration Boundaries through to Mining Tenements, Topography and Planning schemes.

WMSPublicImagery is the teaser service with 2006 aerial photography covering the wider Perth metropolitan area. This is used to demonstrate capabilities and to promote purchase of the chargeable imagery service.

Subscription service which includes Landgate's entire aerial photography and satellite mosaic archive totaling 1,700 datasets.

Public Web feature service containing much of the same data available in WMSPublic. Where custodians have indicated a charge on feature level access, datasets are moved into the equivalent subscription WFS services.

Being able to guarantee the integrity of agency spatial data, and the ability to provide secure services are crucial to the success of SLIP Enabler. Authentication and authorization are required for users of restricted datasets, but flexibility is available for public or anonymous users who can easily access public or open services. This ensures that the integrity of data is maintained, while access and currency is increased exponentially.

Figure 3. SLIP Enabler Physical Architecture (Click for larger image)
SLIP Enabler offers an inclusive service by giving citizens and government the same opportunities to research information and make informed decisions. Previously the situation seemed to favor agencies with large budgets and the expertise to manage large spatial systems. SLIP has removed the barriers.

Benefits
The benefits that SLIP and the Enabler can provide to government, private groups and individuals include:
  • Reduced costs in administering and disseminating agency information
  • Simple online access to the latest land information across state government
  • The ability for all agencies to work from the same information at the same time
  • Increased efficiency through streamlined business processes
  • Integrity of data by maintaining agency accountability
SLIP Enabler has, from its inception, focused on providing the framework to support "joined-up" government services in four priority areas.
  • Emergency Management - using land information to improve public safety, reduce reaction times for emergency services and help save lives. This service can be used in natural emergencies such as cyclones and floods, bush searches and counter-terrorism incidents.
  • Natural Resource Management - delivering mapping and data to regional groups and agencies to support conservation, land management and sustainable development.
  • Providing an electronic Land Development Process (eLDP) - developing land typically involves referrals to many different bodies. By introducing an electronic land development process, SLIP can dramatically reduce the time needed for subdivision approvals compared with the old paper-based system. It can also make the process for obtaining statutory approvals more transparent.
  • Interest Inquiry - when you buy or develop land, there can be many bodies or agencies that have an interest or say in that land. These interests might range from heritage and native title interests, to road and transport matters, local government and even power utilities. In fact, there are up to 60 interests that could affect your property, and 23 different government agencies that can exercise an interest in your land. And you would have to contact each party to find out their interest in your land. But a one-stop Interest Inquiry within SLIP that links all such datasets can provide a simple, quick way of finding out. Customers would only have to identify a property online, and the service would contact the all agencies involved, and provide a report and contact names if a follow-up were needed.
The objectives of SLIP are to simplify access to the government's valuable land and geographic information; improve the efficiency of government business decision making; promote better integration across government; and facilitate the development of new applications to meet the changing requirements of business and the community.

Perhaps one of the most significant benefits of this initiative is that it has provided an innovative way of allowing the public sector to deliver a range of specialized services to the community without having to undertake specialized training. This is particularly relevant because it means agencies can focus on other priority areas of business.

A further benefit to the capacity of the public sector is in developing ongoing business partnerships. Collaboration with private Information Technology vendors through the SLIP Developers Program encourages significant cross-fertilization of ideas and the ability to incorporate leading edge solutions.

The capacity of public sector staff to manage projects of increasing complexity has been enhanced through this mechanism. SLIP Enabler delivers increased efficiency for agencies by reducing the effort required to duplicate and manually integrate data. Users are able to obtain the latest agency data in real-time from a single access point.

SLIP - The Future
At the end of May 2008, more than 1,300 individuals, agencies and businesses were registered and using SLIP services. The sustainability of SLIP is ensured via the system being easily extendable to take in more agencies for limited cost and the ongoing development of new business applications. Feedback from the wider spatial industry indicates SLIP Enabler is hitting the target.

Interest in SLIP Enabler is also increasing in the private sector. Protocols for private sector involvement have been developed. Other organizations have also expressed an interest in being able to offer data or services through SLIP.

Published Friday, August 15th, 2008

Written by Mark Ducksbury



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