Updated! Now includes my notes from the whole day.


My day job is working as a Business Analyst for the Government Digital Service. As part of that I’m currently at an event called Stack Maps where my colleague Simon Everest (@simoneverest) has brought together interested parties from across government to discuss the present and future of using geospatial data in government.

This morning’s session has been really good with presentations from the Land Registry, the CAPD service and Ordnance Survey. This was followed by a good Q&A with many good questions and responses (hello @psd).

These are my notes from this morning:

  • Is the first sensible thing to do to create and publish a list of existing government services that use geospatial data? Then ask departments to add services that are currently in their roadmaps.
  • Does it make sense to start cross-referencing the user needs for these services (or transactional services in general) to see where the commonalities fall out? How about using Maslow to collect user needs for transactional services the same way it is used for pages on GOV.UK?
  • There are existing communities, for example around the Ordnance Survey mapping platform, but should there be a cross-government, technology independent, community of interest? Sounds like a discussion with the government Community Manager James Cattell (@jacattell) could be one of the next things to do.
  • Appeals from the floor not to have “one giant system” to do everything – don’t recreate INSPIRE.
  • Everyone is talking about open source and open data – excellent! Both the Land Registry and the CAPD project will open source their code as part of the GDS Digital by Default standard.
  • For example the CAPD folks have created a mapping-specific extension to the standard UX templates for GOV.UK.
  • Open data is very important but it depends very much on the quality of the data. The Ordnance Survey chap had a slide with a mug that had the ODI certificate levels on it – that’s a very good start.
  • Several people have mentioned frequently policy changes being a real bugbear for their service. It would be very good for more people to be exposed to the Product Catalogue software component from the Visit Visas exemplar which addresses that issue directly.
  • There are a number of interesting questions about how Assisted Digital and Digital Inclusion fit into these type of services. Not much discussion of that yet here. The AD team at GDS should be a key part of any new community of interest.
  • The OS demo project “Sprite” looked interesting (mapping lots of open data onto their platform). Can’t find a link though…
  • It obviously makes sense for each transactional service that encompasses a set of user needs to have their own process. The interesting question is what kind of platform(s) should be on GOV.UK for folks who are just looking for data on a map. The Environment Agency WIYBY (What’s in Your Back Yard) service provides something like that but by using well formatted, regularly updated open data a platform could be built on GOV.UK to enable people to specify a very wide range of things to plot on a single map. Is that a sensible solution? Perhaps one for the workshops later on today :-).

These are my notes from this afternoon:

  • Plenty of discussion around responsibility of code, apis or data provided by one department and used by another. Working with open source code. Working with non-guaranteed-accurate data.
  • Questions about how to write a business case for a service when a significant amount of the value is to be gained by reuse in the future by organisations in different departments
  • A much wider problem of the various open data sets currently and soon to be on data.gov.uk and whether they can be combined to de-anonymise people.
  • The chap presenting from Ordnance Survey said he would happily come and present at GDS. Perhaps a slot at the all-hands – along with Simon giving feedback on Stack Maps and subsequent actions?
  • Given the imminent updating of the GDS Service Manual to use the GOV.UK publishing platform and the assigning of each section to have its own content manager, it sounds like an excellent opportunity to have a section on mapping – *cough*Simon*cough*. Sections in that could include:
  • ** How to join the new “mapping service delivery” community
  • ** A list of existing communities (Royal Geographic Society, Environmental Science to Service Partnership, etc) 
  • ** Pointers to sub-communities of interest (emergency alerting based on area?, property based?, commercial?, etc)
  • ** A list of national and local government read-only and transactional services that use maps or location data
  • ** A list of their user needs to draw out commonalities (see comment above about Maslow)
  • ** A pointer to open geospatial data on data.gov.uk
  • ** Best practice case studies
  • However – in this case there’s also a need for a place to store data that can’t be made fully open:
  • ** Details of geospatial datasets created by government transactional services that may be useful in other ones but can’t be made open data
  • ** A list of mapping related cross-government digital architecture between various services

The main take-away though was that people really wanted to get plugged into existing cross-government GDS communities (Service Managers, TAs, WebOps, User Research, Front End Designers, etc). I need to speak to Simon to ensure the participants are informed how to do that…