The City of Penticton has closed the deal on a new geographic information system that may make profound changes in how the city does business.
“It’s a way of representing data geographically,” said Kristin Wilkes, the city’s information technology manager. “Almost all data that a municipality has is geographical, meaning it has an address or physical location. The new system will allow us to leverage the data that we currently have in our existing system.”
That data, she explains, includes everything from the city’s tax rolls to the customers of the electric utility. But the possibilities go much further. If the electric department needs to know which of their power poles were installed in 2002, the new system would be able to pinpoint them all over the city. Or Public Works could conceivably use it to locate all the pipe in the city nearing the end of its expected lifespan.
By seeing it graphically on a map, Wilkes explains, the departments will be able to plan their work more efficiently and see what areas of the city they need to work in. The city’s current online mapping system doesn’t really compare to the possibilities of the new GIS, which will cost about $39,000 to implement.
“A GIS is much more informative and all-encompassing. It really allows managers and staff to make good business decisions,” said Wilkes. “The difference between what we currently have and an enterprise system is breadth of information. It just does so much more.”
Cost savings from the new system, however, will be harder to tally up.
“What it is really going to do is improve our reporting abilities and provide efficiencies in the field,” she said. “While we may not see hard dollar savings, we will certainly see more informed managers, better decision making and a more informed council.”
The same system, made by Esri, a California software company, is already in use in West Kelowna and Kelowna, as well as at the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen. Having the same system will make sharing certain data with other communities easier as well, like mapping information for the fire department, which is now being dispatched out of Kelowna.
Like the current system, the new GIS system, limited to public information, will be available to the public through an online interface. But the new system will be available to a far wider group.
“Our current map it isn’t accessible from Apple or mobile devices, which is a big downfall in my opinion. The new system will be accessible by any browser in any device. That will open it up to anyone and everyone,” said Wilkes.
That includes city workers out in the field, who will be able to access information about their worksite in real time.
“We’re looking more and more at empowering our workers in the field with this kind of tool to help them do their jobs better and be more efficient,” said Wilkes.