Wales is big. I don’t think anyone would dispute that. Not just in size (it’s estimated at 21 588 kilometres, 8 335 square miles or around 2073511 hectares) but as a comparison, if something is as big as Wales, it’s considered quite significant by the media. Deserts, forests, and asteroids are all measured using Wales as a geographical reference point by scientists and news teams.
So – big countries like Wales with many living in remote locations and near undulating countryside can be challenging to run. To manage things efficiently, public sector bodies need to work together, linking data, systems and organisations to maintain efficiency.
Here are some great examples of how this has been happening recently thanks to some innovative use of digital geographic information and map products in the public sector
Newport council – address data improves the benefits system
A collaborative project between the Welsh Government, Cardiff City Council and Newport Council hopes to generate up to £500,000 in revenue when deployed across the country, by more effective address management relating to council tax collection.
Using AddressBase (available under the public sector mapping agreement or PSMA) and Unique Property Reference Number and Local Land and Property Gazetteer, the councils are able to ensure any changes to the property or occupancy are updated across a range of systems. This improves the accuracy and efficiency of council tax collection and reduces the potential for fraud or non-payment.
Post offices changes in Powys
When changes were proposed for the locations of post offices in Powys, the county council was able to analyse the impact of these changes visually using products available through the PSMA and under the OS OpenData agreement
A clearer picture of the potential impact was created through analysis of catchment areas, showing the more challenging terrain that residents had to travel to reach each post office. This helped display the ‘real’ travel distances for those affected by the changes.
Visualising the data against a geographic context meant that a more accurate impact analysis was carried out, helping decisions to be made using a greater breadth and depth of information.
Optimising the school bus run in Cardiff
Planning the free school bus run is one of the many challenges faced by the schools and Life-long learning service at Cardiff council.
Using Ordnance Survey map products and linking these to the council’s management information system, a much more accurate analysis of the problems was possible, helping to fine-tune the transportation solution.
Walking routes could be tracked from home to the school gate and the length of individual journeys could be measured with a high level of accuracy and without needing to walk each route on the ground.
This level of accurate geographic data supported the optimisation of the bus routes, saving money on transportation costs and the number of buses required. This saving allowed the buses themselves to be upgraded, improving the quality of the service delivered to the community.
It’s great to see such good examples of big thinking to resolve problems where ‘big geography’ creates challenges for public services. I hope to have more examples to share with you soon.