Mapping the City With Big Data!

Big data is big news at the moment and no more so than in how it is helping Local Authorities and public sector bodies where to allocate resources and services within the community. The Greater Manchester Infrastructure Map details relevant public and private sector infrastructure data. This data consists of information about public assets such as energy utility networks etc. Last year the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership highlighted how poor infrastructure acts as a huge barrier to economic growth in a city so it stands to reason that a better indication of infrastructure opportunities can support growth.

The GMLEP asked New Economy to develop an open data map (using some funding from the Cabinet Office Release of Data Fund as well as development work by Salford City Council). New Economy recently presented the findings of this at one of their breakfast briefing events. Professor Robert Barr OBE, from Manchester Geomatics and The University of Liverpool presented on the lessons learnt and findings over the last 3 years (the map was finalised at the end of the last Parliament in March). Geospatial applications of data are great for detailing new opportunities for services and provisions in an area and highlighting infrastructure needs (such as placement of pipes and cables).

Broken down by different geographical boundaries such as local authority, ward and output areas and covering data for a range of public services such as ‘green and environmental infrastructure’, ‘heritage assets’ and ‘public land investments’ the map is open source. Users can propose uploading their own datasets as necessary. These are considered on an individual basis depending on how open the data is and how challenging it would be to add more information. Those looking to submit planning proposals are also able to us e the map to better understand how their plans will work out so it’s offers time saving and efficiency as well. Seeing how citizens are using services and being aware of any gaps in provision may be critical in developing planning activity and ensuring these are filled effectively. Another benefit of ‘open data’ is that various front line services and organisations can come together to tackle infrastructure issues, overcoming funding limitations and other restrictions to get new developments in place.

The ongoing key objective of the map is ‘to maximise the use of public data for the benefit of the citizen, good governance and commerce’. Plans for moving forward include forging a wider commitment to open data access across the city, a developed platform for information sharing and to prioritise sharing all data regarding planning for the Greater Manchester area. It'll be interesting to see if this acts as a blueprint for other cities to adopt as part of planning processes going forward.