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Digital Transformation in Government Insight #31:
Australia’s National Map - Open Data In Action

The National Map plots a huge variety of data across a map of Australia from native vegetation and caves to bridges, road crashes and local Council boundaries.

Salsa Digital 11 April 2017

What is the National Map?

The National Map is a 2D or 3D imaging website (depending on your browser) that allows you to choose a variety of datasets for display. In this way, the map can be tailored to your needs.

Current datasets

There are way too many datasets to list them all here. Best to pop over the the National Map and click on Add Data. However, to give you an idea, the datasets are grouped into folders, including these national data sets:

  • Communications (we like the handy mobile blackspot in this folder)
  • Elevation (contours, reefs, land slope, etc.)
  • Environment (Australian world heritage areas, conservation management zones, marine reserves, etc.)
  • Framework (forestry reserves, indigenous reserves, gas pipelines, etc.)
  • Groundwater (water table salinity, aquifer boundary, etc.)
  • Habitation (cemetery areas, homestates, urban landscapes, etc.)
  • Health (Medicare offices and primary health networks)
  • Infrastructure (damn walls, lighthouses, mine areas, etc.)
  • Land (mineral exploration, clay content, etc.)
  • National boundaries (Commonwealth electoral divisions, state electoral divisions, etc.)
  • Social and economic (births and deaths, Census statistics, house prices, etc.)
  • Statistical boundaries (mesh blocks, indigenous areas, urban centre and locality, etc.)
  • Surface water (streams, catchments, marine swamps, etc.)
  • Terrain (caves, cliffs, sands, etc.)
  • Transport (airfields, bridges, ferries, rail, etc.)
  • Utility (oil and gas pipelines and powerlines)
  • Vegetation (cultivated areas and native vegetation)
  • (lots here, including disaster events and employment regions)
  • Data providers (atmosphere map, crown of thorn starfish programs, etc.)

There are also folders for each state, with datasets such as floodlines, geological features, historical features and even data on road crashes. Drilling down even further we see local governments for each state.

This massive number of datasets means you can tailor the map to suit your needs, highlighting relevant information.

History of the National Map

The National Map started off as a Department of Communications and the Arts initiative and is now managed by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The software was developed by CSIRO’s Data 61 and based on open source software.  

The Beta version was launched in July 2014 ahead of the 2014 GovHack event. Since then, the map has grown to the extensive collection of data it represents today. Impressively, the National Map was the first of its kind in the world. Check out About the National Map for more information.

Salsa Digital’s take

Open data is a key area for digital transformation, especially for government. Open data is something we’ve been talking (and blogging) about a lot recently, because it’s a major driver for government going forward. If you’re new to the series or our blogs in general, you may want to check out these past blogs:

The National Map is a great example of how data can be used to provide real value for citizens and other government agencies. In addition, it also uses open source software...don’t get us started about how great that is! (But if you want to get us started, check out our blog from last year on the importance of open source for government).

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