Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Uses a GIS-Enhanced Web Site
Little, Al, Public Management
The idea of offering new services in an era of increasingly tight budgets can scare local government managers and leaders. With limited revenue sources available and the public's general aversion to tax increases, the worry is about sustainability. How can the local government pay for the new service over the long term?
At the same time, community residents are demanding that their local government provide the same convenience and access to services as they receive from the private sector. How can a local government best respond to such demands?
Technology provides one important answer. Although an investment in system development is usually required, improved technology can greatly enhance the ability of the local government to respond to the needs of its citizenry without breaking the budget. Local government Web sites, including those that use geographic information system (GIS) technology, can offer an array of new local government services for residents at a reasonable cost.
AN EXAMPLE FROM CANADA
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (www.hamilton.ca), has been creating innovative GIS-enhanced Web sites (www.map.hamilton.ca) for years, and it has received various industry technology awards for innovative and useful e-government services. Hamilton's GIS-enhanced site, map.hamilton, serves up more than 78,000 maps every month.
To produce such a large volume of maps without the aid of the Web site would represent an enormous drain of staff time and resources. But with the Web site, literally thousands of citizens and other customers can easily access the information they need at a relatively minimal cost to the city.
Hamilton began its Web efforts with a Web site dedicated to local economic development. It provided tools for assisting clients in finding industrial, institutional, and commercial properties for sale or lease. Visitors to the site can search for properties by size, class, and type. The Web site provides orthophotography, census, infrastructure, traffic, and utility data. It also incorporates a business directory so that Hamilton can help businesses map the locations of potential customers, suppliers, and competitors.
Information on properties for sale or lease comes from commercial listing services that include photos of the properties. Many, if not most, initial development searches begin on the Web now. Commercial and industrial site developers research available properties at all times of the day. Having a presence on the Web is crucial to being considered as a possible location. Hamilton's online tools give the city the profile and presence it needs to capitalize on potential opportunities.
Much of the data used for the economic development Web site was first used for internal applications. The planning and development department uses GIS and Web technologies for managing vacant-land inventory, subdivision and development tracking, heritage site management, demographic analysis, population modeling and forecasting, urban forestry, zoning, official plans, addressing, long-range planning, growth-related integrated development, environmentally sensitive areas, source-water protection, downtown renewal, building and licensing, community planning and design, and cartographic services. …