Interactive maps – beyond election results

Media coverage of yesterday’s general elections has included many interactive online maps. Voters have been able to explore the election votes in different ways, seeing who won what where, and how close the contests were.

Here at the Observatory, we use InstantAtlas software to produce this kind of map. We’ve produced a map of yesterday’s election results as an example, but in fact we have many other maps available covering a wide range of topics. For example, Jobseeker’s Allowance claims by ward or the results of the place survey, which asked residents how they felt about their local government.

Looking at these kinds of data geographically can often be illuminating; maps can often reveal patterns that the raw data alone wouldn’t reveal. At the Observatory, the spatial dimension is something we’re always considering – maps aren’t just for election time!

An introduction to geographic information and why it’s important

Brian Higgs from Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council gave a presentation about the importance of geographical information (GI) at the Geographical Information Day, hosted by the Observatory on 18th November 2009.

Brian introduced the concept of geographical information and demonstrated practical examples of how GI is used within Dudley MBC. Here’s Brian’s presentation which includes the audio and slides:

Can’t see the presentation? View the video on Viddler.com or get the PowerPoint slides (ppt, 12.7mb).

GIS mapping supports local “My Health Matters” project in Stoke-on-Trent

This guest post was contributed by Graham Smith of Staffordshire University.

The My Health Matters project has been designed specifically to help build partnership with statutory healthcare providers, the local voluntary and community sector to help meet the challenge of increasing physical activity levels and healthy eating in targeted areas within Stoke-on-Trent.

The project is based on evidence that increasing levels of physical activity and healthy eating will help to raise the low levels of life expectancy experienced by the population of Stoke-on-Trent.

This project is funded by NHS Stoke-on-Trent Primary Care Trust. The project will focus on areas within three deprived wards in Stoke-on-Trent:

  • Burslem South
  • Weston & Meir North
  • Bentilee & Townsend

Each ward is similar with regards to socio-economic status (i.e. in the bottom 40% of the Indices of Multiple Deprivation 2007).

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GIS used to digitise brownfield land sites and inform planning in the Black Country

This guest post was contributed by Christopher Styche from the Black Country Observatory.

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) were used as a tool for analysis in a project looking at brownfield land across the Black Country during the end of 2006–2007.

The purpose of the project was to inform policy makers involved with the implementation plans for the Black Country and emerging core strategy.

There was a strong partnership approach to this work with representatives from all four local authorities (Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton), as well as the Homes and Community Agency and Advantage West Midlands.

This post describes the project step-by-step and the role of GIS within the project.

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Making the invisible visible: matching West Midlands ICT SMEs with business opportunities

West Midlands ICT Cluster AWMistThis is a guest post written by Brian Prangle with contributions from Andrew Mackenzie.

West Midlands Regional Development Agency, Advantage West  Midlands (AWM) has unveiled its latest initiative to stimulate and develop the high technology sector.

AWMist (A Web Map-based Information Search Tool) is the first regional interface of its kind where collaboration, business opportunity building, and partnerships can be easily forged between the region’s ICT SMEs (Small to Medium Enterprises) and those who can support and assist them, such as funding agencies, universities and business support projects.

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Roundup of Geographical Information Day 2009

This is a roundup of the presentations given at last week’s event in Birmingham focused on the importance of geographical information and systems. The event was targeted mainly at primary school teachers, though many delegates from the public sector attended.

The event which was chaired by Shona Frost from Staffordshire County Council.

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Interactive maps help monitor recession geospatially

We’ve produced a set of interactive maps to monitor the impact of the recession at different geographical levels in the West Midlands:

  • By West Midlands Local Authority
  • By West Midlands Census ward
  • Neighbourhoods in the Rural Regeneration Zone

The maps show Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimant rates (the proportion of the working age population claiming JSA), which gives an indication of unemployment.  The maps help us to see how the recession is affecting different areas.

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Government ensures free access to some Ordnance Survey maps

Gordon Brown, Liam Byrne and Sir Tim Berners-Lee at the Smarter Government seminar at Downing Street, 17th November 2009

Gordon Brown, Liam Byrne and Sir Tim Berners-Lee at the Smarter Government seminar at Downing Street, 17th November 2009

Photo of Smarter Government seminar by Downing Street

Some Ordnance Survey maps are to be made available to businesses and the public, as part of the Government’s drive to open up data to improve transparency.

Speaking at a seminar yesterday on Smarter Government in Downing Street, attended by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt, the Prime Minister and Communities Secretary John Denham set out how the Government and Ordnance Survey, Great Britain’s national mapping agency, will open up its data relating to electoral and local authority boundaries, postcode areas and mid scale mapping information.

This data would be released for free re-use, including commercially.

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Place matters

UK mapA recent discussion between a panel of experts assembled by the Government Computing magazine and ESRI highlighted that the UK needs to make the most of  its location or geographical data.

Participants, including Brian Higgs from the Observatory’s Geographical Information group, believe that organisations need to encourage the sharing of location specific data in order to improve decision making processes.

Location information is perceived as a critical element of  the contingency planning  system and can be used to understand what or who is physically at risk, and to assess social and economic value.

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Plot data on world maps with new OECD tools

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and DevelopmentTwo new online tools from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) now allow you to plot a huge array of social and economic data onto world maps and track them through time creating an animated chart as you follow your chosen geographic area against other areas. It’s easy to use and, more importantly, easy on the eye.

The first tool, the OECD Factbook eXplorer, allows you to display data (subject to availability) for countries from 1950 to 2006, or even beyond if forecast data is available.

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Using height layers and aerial photography to visualise developments and land use

Infoterra an EADS Astrium companyMembers of the Pan Government Agreement (PGA2) including Advantage West Midlands and other Regional Development Agencies, DEFRA, Natural England and Communities and Local Government have signed up for access to national layers of aerial photography and height layers from The Next Perspectives Consortium led by Infoterra UK Ltd.

Available to download (and for PGA licensed organisations), these layers can be used for a whole host of applications in supporting the work of the organisations. We hope this brief article exemplifies how other government departments are using the information and will provide some ideas on how to best exploit the data.
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Shropshire electoral review using ArcGIS

Shropshire CouncilWhat are electoral reviews and why do one?

Electoral reviews are undertaken periodically and their main aim is to ensure that ‘electoral equality’ is maintained, meaning that all councillors in a single authority represent approximately the same number of electors.

Reviews are needed if there has been a lot of new development in an area which results in an increase in the numbers of electors or (as in the case of Shropshire) if a new authority is formed which has a different number of councillors, to ensure there are fair arrangements in place for the first elections to the new authority.

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Breaking out of the silo – a case study

Improvement and Development Agency logoThe West Midlands Regional Observatory is an excellent example of cross-organisation and cross-departmental working, according to a recent case study by the Improvement & Development Agency (I&DeA).

According to the study, the Observatory is a rich resource providing information, knowledge and expertise to a range of audiences.

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Making the right choices in a disaster

INTAMAP map showing measurements of Nitrogen dioxide across the UK

Example INTAMAP interpolation (centre) of Nitrogen dioxide measurements across the UK

If there were a nuclear accident in Europe, how would those responsible for disaster response know where to focus attention? And how would they access the right information to make fast and accurate decisions?

Aston University are collaborating with eight other European partners to deliver the Interoperability and Automated Mapping Project (INTAMAP), which will provide emergency response decision makers with the complex data and information they need over the internet in a usable format… fast.

So, in the case of a nuclear accident, for example, they could use INTAMAP to make the right decisions quickly.

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How is the Black Country performing?

Map showing the number of workless people by lower super output area in the Black Country in May 2008

Map showing levels of worklessness in the Black Country May 2008 (click map to view at full size)

How can we tell whether real progress is being made towards achievement of the Black Country’s aspirations?

The aspirations are set out in the Black Country Vision and the  Black Country Strategy for Growth and Competitiveness.

The answer may lie in the newly developed Black Country performance management framework, which consists of 24 key indicators that measure achievement of the Black Country Strategy.

Supporting maps for each indicator are available on Black Country Knowledge (registration required).

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