Using IntranetGIS to Support Corporate GIS Service Delivery in Local
Government: The EUROGISE Experience
Gavin Keith, Forth Valley GIS Manager and EUROGISE Technical Director
EUROGISE (or EUROpean GIS Expansion) is one of fifteen projects funded under the
ERDF‟s TERRA Programme for the three-year period of 1998-2000. The primary objective
of EUROGISE is to identify the means by which GIS technology can be used to assist the
spatial planning process. A corporate, or multi-sectoral, approach is the basis for integrating
existing and new datasets into „one-stop information access points‟ comprising all spatially
related information related to spatial planning.
The project involves six local authority partners from 5 countries including:
Forth Valley GIS Team, the joint body that provides GIS services to 3 neighbouring
local authorities in Scotland, UK - Stirling, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire Councils.
Forth Valley GIS are also the project leaders.
Council of Tampere Region, Finland
Municipality of Stavroupoli, Greece
Liverpool City Council, England, UK
Regional Government of Limburg, Netherlands; and
NASC - (a consortium of regional authorities in the west of Ireland).
While there are key developments underway for all the partners, this presentation will
examine the experiences of the three local authorities served by Forth Valley GIS. The first
stage of the Project in 1998 was simply to produce a baseline report of existing GIS
applications and information. In the experience of Forth Valley GIS, there was a wide range
of desktop GIS solutions – most of which were supporting spatial planning and regional
development for the three councils. However, a User Requirements Study conducted at the
same time determined that, while users were interested in further GIS developments, the
highest priority need was simply easier and more widespread access to geographic
information on an organisational basis using the “one-stop information access point”
Forth Valley GIS determined that Internet (or in this case - intranet) technology was the most
effective means of responding to this requirement. Development of the “IntranetGIS Pilot”
commenced in autumn 1999 with installation within the first of the three councils in March of
this year with subsequent implementations for the remaining two councils scheduled for later
in the year.
The overall objective and focus of the IntranetGIS Pilots has been to encourage widespread
dissemination and use of geographic information throughout the three local authorities –
indeed, shaping the future in how geographic information is used and analysed at a local
government level. While it is still too early to determine if the priority needs of increased
access to information have been met on a long-term basis, the prospects look positive. This
presentation will discuss – and demonstrate – the Forth Valley GIS experience incorporating
both the technical and cultural barriers that have been confronted in using intranet GIS and,
more important, the geographic information to support the spatial planning process. Future
plans for expansion will also be discussed.
Overview of the EUROGISE Project
The overall purpose of EUROGISE is to identify the means by which GIS technology can be
used to assist spatial planning by utilising and developing geographical land use and
information systems. There are four priority objectives, which relate to common and
identified needs for all six partners. These are to:
Promote an integrated, multi-sectoral approach to spatial planning;
Use GIS technology as a tool to assist corporate information management;
Demonstrate positive and measurable benefits for all partners over the duration of the
project, in terms of improved service delivery and information management; and
Devise new communication links and enhance existing ones between project partners at
all levels by developing political and organisational liaison groups.
In lieu of a EUROGISE „Project Team‟, six theme groups have been established to address
common topics relevant to all partners regardless of local circumstances and the current status
of GIS development at each partner authority (Figure 1). These are both technical and issue-
oriented and allow the network to fulfil the objectives in a cohesive and co-ordinated manner.
Each partner is responsible for one theme and contributes to the others of particular interest.
Figure 1: EUROGISE Theme Groups
Forth Valley GIS
Liverpool Metadata Data
Introduction Initiatives in
De of GIS into an Multi-Sectoral
There are more than 50 concrete actions and associated „deliverables‟ or outcomes related to
the project, most of which will be completed later this year. While not of these actions
address IntranetGIS per se, three of the partners (Forth Valley GIS, NASC, and the Regional
Government of Limburg) see Intranet GIS technology as an essential means of disseminating
spatial information throughout the respective organisations.
Clearly, the most important aspect of EUROGISE is the information and its management,
analysis and dissemination. The challenge of the project has been to consolidate the
information necessary to each partner for effective spatial planning, to develop one-stop
information analysis points and facilitate the widespread use of GIS technology as a gateway
to both access and analyse spatial information.
Background to Forth Valley GIS
Forth Valley GIS is a joint body that provides GIS services to three neighbouring authorities
in central Scotland: Stirling, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire Councils. The joint approach is
seen as the most effective means of providing GIS services for a wide range of applications to
the councils and has delivered significant benefits in a number of different service delivery
areas. Each of the three councils allocates staff to Forth Valley GIS and shares equally in
both the costs and benefits of GIS inputs and outcomes.
The three councils cover an area of approximately 2,500 square kilometres in the heart of
mainland Scotland. The councils are responsible for the delivery of a wide range of services
including strategic and local planning, economic development, education, social work,
housing and transportation, to a resident population of 270,000.
Over the past five years, Forth Valley GIS has acquired substantial experience in developing
corporate geographic information systems and associated spatial information for the three
local authorities. To date, there are 19 specific applications (Figure 2), 170 datasets and a
user base exceeding 300 people at 100 sites throughout the three Councils. The software
technology is desktop-based with high-end GIS workstations used primarily for large-volume
data processing purposes.
Figure 2: Forth Valley GIS Portfolio of Existing Desktop Applications
Digital Mapping National Street Gazetteer Ad-hoc Mapping / Analysis
Management of Adopted Roads GIS Data Capture Accident Analysis
Monitoring of House Building Grounds Maintenance Local Plan Mapping / Analysis
Property Terrier Package Development Constraints Corporate Asset Register
Planning Application Logging System Facilities Management System Socio-Economic Analysis
Housing Management System School Placement Requests Cleansing Management System
GIS Browser for Secondary Schools
The standard application in use is the Desktop Mapping System (DMS), which adheres to the
philosophy that 90% of the users require only 10% of the overall functionality. It is a
simplified version of the standard „off-the-shelf‟ desktop product (ArcView) and is used for
gazetteering, map production and simple analysis purposes. Each specific GIS application
incorporates more sophisticated functionality and is developed as an extension to the existing
Desktop Mapping system software. Because the Forth Valley GIS customer base spans three
local authorities, data is provided to DMS installations either from one of a number of servers
(connected over a LAN) or from a local hard disc, depending on local circumstances.
Separate datasets exists for each of the three local authorities, and each individual server only
holds data for one authority.
Why Intranet GIS?
At part of the EUROGISE project, Forth Valley GIS conducted a User Requirements Study
throughout the three Councils in 1998 involving both existing and potential users of GIS. The
results of the Study identified that the highest priority was not more functionality or
sophisticated applications of GIS, but simply easier access to the geographic (or spatial)
information that was available.
Forth Valley GIS determined that the most efficient and cost-effective means of responding to
this need was to implement an “IntranetGIS” solution to ensure the Council‟s geographic
information is made easily available on a corporate basis to the widest audience possible and
at a low per-unit cost. The intention of the IntranetGIS application would be not to replace
existing desktop GIS solutions, but to complement them. With this in mind, IntranetGIS
would attempt to fulfil the following criteria:
Access to geographic information using the existing Stirling Council intranet;
Basic GIS query tools;
Zero (or minimal) per-seat cost;
Centralisation of datasets, thereby reducing system maintenance; and
Closer identification of GI with everyday IT tools.
In the summer of 1999, Forth Valley GIS distributed an Invitation to Tender to prospective
suppliers for the development and implementation of the IntranetGIS solution. The tender
evaluation team narrowed the choices to two suppliers who were then invited to demonstrate
their proposed solutions. Based on the demonstrations, the evaluation team were able to
select the most appropriate solution for the Council, with ESRI (UK) selected as the supplier
with their ArcIMS (or Arc Intranet Map Server) software product.
To maximise the possibility of success for the Pilot, Stirling Council was selected as the „test
site‟ for the IntranetGIS Pilot, with the other two councils to follow after the Pilot evaluation
analysis is complete. A Project Board was established to oversee and monitor the
implementation of the Intranet GIS Pilot and comprised GIS staff, IT managers and key users
within the Council. Importantly, the Project Board was chaired by the Head of Information
Services to co-ordinate developments and ensure integration with other intranet projects.
Development of the IntranetGIS Pilot application commenced in autumn 1999 and became
operational in February 2000. A structured and phased approach was adopted for the Pilot
implementation and rather than simply announcing its availability to all Council employees,
Forth Valley GIS targeted key users within all the Council departments. One-to-one training
sessions were conducted and staff were asked their opinions on a wide range of questions
related to the IntranetGIS pilot, ranging from improvements to the application itself to
identifying business benefits to determining models for payment of future maintenance and
In the last month, Forth Valley GIS has analysed the feedback from the user evaluation with
consensus generally positive. System performance was at high or acceptable levels with
improvements in the areas of bug fixing, increased data availability, and simplification of
existing tools. These modifications have now been addressed with the Pilot application
available to a core set of 100 employees. In the future, access to the application will be
increased on an incremental basis to allow Forth Valley GIS to both monitor system
performance and ensure that appropriate training and support levels are in place.
Because of the large volumes of spatial information, the datasets are organised by „type‟ of
information to allow for the 170+ datasets now available within each of the three Councils.
These encompass those datasets relevant to UK local government service delivery and include
the following data classifications; 1) background, 2) administrative, 3) social, 4) land and
property, 5) planning and 6) transport. Importantly, this method of organisation adheres to
existing metadata data classifications, and therefore, will allow access to the existing meta-
database as well as the spatial data itself.
Arguably, an advantage of the application is its simplicity. Each of these data types are
organised as a separate „view‟ when users access the IntranetGIS „Home Page‟ (Figure 3).
Users then access all the datasets related to that particular view – or theme (Figure 4). There
are road name and address gazetteers along with the standard „zoom and pan‟ facilities to
allow users to easily navigate to any given location. Functionality is kept to a minimum;
however, users do have access to tools for feature identification and selection, query building
and distance measurements.
Figure 3: Forth Valley GIS IntranetGIS Home Page
The results of the Pilot have clearly identified a need – and a benefit – for IntranetGIS within
the local authorities. What quickly became apparent was that it was not the IntranetGIS itself
that was beneficiary of this Pilot; rather, it was the dissemination and availability of the
spatial information itself to the widest possible audience. The GIS is simply a tool to
facilitate this process. Furthermore, the IntranetGIS is not a replacement for the existing
desktop GIS applications and is instead a complimentary technology for the delivery of „GI‟
within the local authority and reaching an entirely new customer base that was either GIS
unaware or could not justify the costs of desktop GIS. Its use will be for information access
and simple queries while desktop GIS will be used for data capture, sophisticated analysis and
high-quality map production.
Figure 4: The IntranetGIS View-based approach to Accessing Spatial Information
The Forth Valley GIS Future of IntranetGIS
Forth Valley GIS will now reap the benefits from the lessons learned from the first
implementation with subsequent installations planned during the remainder of this calendar
year. The system itself will be identical – only the spatial information will change. We have
already initiated the planning process with Project Boards created in the other two Councils.
Forth Valley GIS will continue to use a structured and phased approach towards
implementation and will facilitate user involvement towards the direction of the application.
Forth Valley GIS will also have to ensure that there are sufficient resource levels in place to
meet the future demand for IntranetGIS development and support services. As with other
large GIS projects, it is fundamental that user expectations are managed appropriately, as
success is often measured by adhering to timetable and budgetary projections. Simply put,
Forth Valley GIS will have to ensure that service delivery benefits to all three councils are
maximised, while at the same time, minimise the costs (in this case, resource levels) to
support and further develop the IntranetGIS solution.
There is agreement already from the user base that IntranetGIS is the most cost-effective
means of disseminating spatial information across the organisation(s). However, this does not
signify the demise of desktop – or even high-end workstation GIS as Forth Valley GIS will
incorporate a cross-platform strategy for GIS service delivery (Figure 5). There are still a
limited number of high-end workstations (ArcInfo) that will be used for large-volume data
processing purposes. The existing PC-based Desktop Mapping System and other bespoke
desktop GIS applications will continue to be used for data capture, more advanced mapping
and analysis capabilities. IntranetGIS has found a role for widespread access to spatial data
and the associated attribute information and, while it will replace some of the functions
traditionally performed using desktop GIS, it has also found a new customer base. These are
staff who were either spatially „unaware‟ or simply could not justify the costs of desktop GIS
for these purposes.
Figure 5: High-level Model Illustrating Use of Different GIS Technology Platforms
Information dissemination and
interrogation, decision making
Technological Intranet GIS (All Council staff)
Advanced mapping, data capture SDP High end bespoke projects
& analysis, bespoke applications. and consultancy. (FVGIS
(GIS Professionals) staff only)
Desktop GIS Professional GIS
FVGIS Data Warehouse
In many respects, this is the beginning of the process – not the end. The challenge will be to
ensure that use of the IntranetGIS and therefore the spatial information is sustainable over
time. Forth Valley GIS want to ensure that the application is “needs and information-driven”
not “technology-led”. The IntranetGIS will only be beneficial if it can meet the objective of
improved service delivery for each of the three local authorities.
The EUROGISE Project has provided Forth Valley GIS with the opportunity (and resources)
to increase access to spatial information using the tools available from IntranetGIS
technology. Importantly, the legacy of EUROGISE should continue long after the project
ends in December 2000 with IntranetGIS operational in all three councils. EUROGISE has
funded the establishment costs with the councils now responsible for ensuring the systems are
sustainable in both the medium and long-term.
This IntranetGIS pilot was only one, albeit large, action in support of EUROGISE. In
revisiting the strategic objectives of EUROGISE, Forth Valley GIS can conclude that the
IntranetGIS have been successful in meeting the first three aims. Specifically, it has:
Promoted an integrated, multi-sectoral approach to spatial planning;
Used GIS technology as a tool to assist corporate information management;
Demonstrated positive and measurable in terms of improved service delivery and
However, the real challenge is still in the years ahead as Forth Valley GIS will have to ensure
that the existing momentum is not only sustained but can be used as a platform for future
Through the Pilot, Forth Valley GIS have learned that the most difficult barriers to overcome
are not those that are related to technology but those that are cultural in nature. There is a
requirement for the IntranetGIS to be intuitive but robust, easy access to large volumes of
spatial information, and the ability to integrate easily with other software tools and packages.
Finally, it is the spatial information itself that is the commodity and not the software. In large
organisations such as local authorities (even small local authorities such as those served by
Forth Valley GIS), often are hesitant to „release‟ information to others within the
organisation, creating information silos. One of the main challenges for Forth Valley GIS has
been to build bridges between these silos and making information available on a corporate
basis. Because of the nature of the work that we do, we often find ourselves in a facilitation
role and, while, we have had some measures of success, there are still further bridges to be
built for the future.