GIS at the heart of development and data integration

February 1st, 2019, Published in Articles: PositionIT

First held in 1999 in the US, GIS Day has evolved into a global public awareness initiative which annually takes place in November and promotes geography and GIS technology and applications. The event coincides with the US’s Geography Awareness Week, and this year the United States Senate has recognised 15 November as “National GIS Day”.

GIS Day is also celebrated in South Africa, and in 2018 both the Department of Environmental Affairs’ (DEA) EGIM team and the City of Johannesburg’s Corporate Geo-Informatics (CGIS) unit celebrated the day.

The CGIS unit invited internal and external visitors to learn how the city uses GIS to improve service delivery and how it can be used by other stakeholders. Marcelle Hattingh, CGIS’s director, reminded visitors of the one to two-hour training sessions on the city’s GIS system and data, which takes place every Friday and can be booked up front.

Speakers at the CGIS GIS Day.

Speakers at the CGIS GIS Day 2018.

During presentations on day the Joburg Development Agency’s (JDA) Yasmin Dinath demonstrated how the JDA uses GIS to trace the inner-city footprint for planning and strategy purposes. The agency is responsible for implementing area-based upgrades in strategic precincts. GIS and mapping help identify these areas and can be used to monitor and evaluate the distribution of projects. It also allows the agency to view developments in the context of other projects like the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) System. In this way, the systems can highlight areas that need attention and intervention. Being able to combine a variety of different information in a GIS, including cost, funders, clients, dates completed, project types and budgets enables it to conduct spatial analyses to inform further developments and capital investment. The JDA plans to add this information to the CGIS’s Online Map Viewer in the near future.

GIS is further used in law enforcements by the city’s Buya Mthetho Team, as one of the team’s members, Gugulethu Godi, explained. Mapping revenue can identify areas of non-payment to prioritise and target interventions. In the field the team also uses a mobile GIS on their phones for navigation and inspection purposes. They make use of various datasets in their work, including verified ownership, zoning classifications, property identification, SGID verification and address verification, in addition to drawing on complementary data such as cadastral data, deeds reports, SG diagrams and aerial maps.

The city’s GIS and billing system is not yet integrated, but this could all change with a planned SAP upgrade project soon. At the heart of the city’s GIS and a core database with some 1 000 000 records which underpin billing is the LIS, or Land Information System.

CGIS’s Colin Drake gave attendees an overview of the LIS. The property data in this database feeds into the SAP billing system. Properties that are not in the LIS cannot be billed. Quality control is done by spatially inspecting entries to verify them. The GIS is important to view individual properties in relation to their surroundings and to avoid duplicate entries. Having a master database like the LIS creates a single point of data control and validation and saves costs incurred by duplication. This dataset is also audited and has received an unqualified audit from the Auditor General for the last four years now. A quality dataset like this also shortens the lead time to open accounts after a property has been registered. It can further be used to do trend analyses of new registrations, property purchase prices, monitoring of newly proclaimed townships and more.

Beyond billing, accurate addressing is a means to access service delivery, as Vincent Mkhwanazi from the CGIS’s Street Address unit explained. He and his team work to identify and correct properties without addresses or with multiple active addresses, as well as work on projects such as Deeds alignment and JDA road links. Street addresses don’t only play a role in IEC voting station mapping, which is important to assess navigation and accessibility, but also on other services such as postal delivery.

See a gallery of the GIS Day here.

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