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BI 2010 – Successfully incorporating geospatial data


Melanie du Plessis from the electoral commission was next. The IEC focuses on ensuring that elections are free and fair. One of the key elements of this is a focus on a single national register of voters that everyone appears on once and only once. Divided up the country into voting districts, to one of which each voter was allocated. Each contains voting stations within the targeted distance of voters. They began the whole project to define these maps. But now have a whole process to maintain and manage these units and this information can now be exploited in other projects – adding geospatial data to other BI projects. Increasingly their BI projects are being driven by the GIS system.

For instance, reporting on which parties got the most votes in each of the 19,726 units is hard to use when presented in a report. Present it through the medium of GIS and suddenly the trends and dynamics are much clearer. Use this view across time and the trends become clear. Some other examples of Geospatial BI applications at IEC include hardcopy maps, including the Atlas of Results, an interactive GIS desktop, a voting station finder for citizens and more.

These applications add a geographic perspective. For instance, when someone is looking for a voting station they can see if the station is in the target voting district while in the field. When planning elections, the geospatial data helps plan out the areas covered by supervisors and local officers etc. The status of preparing for an election is presented using geospatial data so trends in readiness or challenges in particular parts of the country are clear.

Critical needs:

  • Spatial data, business data and a clear understanding of the links between them
  • An understanding of the geography such as population density, terrain etc.
  • Keeping data in synch with the geospatial data is tricky, especially as boundaries etc change all the time.
  • Geospatial data can be very precise (for mapping) and more detailed than is needed for a business application
  • Users want their maps to be pretty yet fast and functional
  • Need an understanding of what will make sense from a reporting perspective to link BI to geography

One of the things I liked best about this was the drive to provide public access to all this data through the medium of maps and geospatial data as this makes it much easier for people to review it, something that is essential for public data like this. Combined with the trend to integrate these kinds of applications with location data on your mobile device, GIS is clearly here to stay. Personally I also see more and more use of embedded geospatial and location data – being able to run rules that are based on whether someone is in a particular region.