There’s a saying that goes: “The way to man’s heart is through his stomach.” Because man loves food and cooking for a man is a sure way to win his affection.
I have another saying that “the way towards national GIS is through standardized basemap.” Simply because GIS users need map data and maintaining a standard basemap for every GIS users is definitely a sure way to ensure data interoperability.
However, what is a national basemap? While the map contents or layers can be the more the merrier, but there are some basic elements that needs to be included as foundation of basemap. While some might need specific data pertaining to their area of interest, most GIS users simply need a good street map that contains the following basic layers :-
- Street network & hub with name i.e roads, railway, LRT, stations, airports, port, etc.
- Land use area with name, building outline, parcel layout, address
- Location and name for important places or point of interest (POI)
- Administrative boundaries with names – national, state, district, mukim, postcode, etc
- Hydrography and other natural features with name i.e. rivers, lakes, etc.
- Imagery i.e. satellite images, aerial photos, etc if any
These basic layers can form a pretty good basemap similar to street maps or city maps that can support most GIS activities. Other Agencies can add more textual data or attributes to these geometry (in the form of points, line and polygon) and make them more meaningful for their own purpose. The main point is as long as everyone is using the same basemap as their references, then we are on the right track towards national GIS.
This is pivotal because GIS is model after the real world objects and organize them into layers of information. The ability to overlay the information correctly is fundamental in data sharing and collaboration. In other words, it is useless to have different layers of information from Ministry of Health (MoH), Ministry of Education (MoE), and Public Work Department (JKR), only to find out that each and every one is maintaining their own version of basemap with different level of details, degree of accuracy and map scale. Hence the location of hospital, schools and road networks might appear correctly in respective GIS system but not the case when other users wish to overlay all these information for other planning purpose.
Imagine different parts of a car engine were manufactured by different companies without adhering to a common design layout or framework. Once the separate engine parts are finally ready, it might not fit into the car chassis compartment because different manufacturers are using different type of bolts and nuts, materials etc that suits them best without the bigger picture in mind.
Singapore Land Authority (SLA) started a very good initiative few years back and named it OneMap Singapore. You can take a look at their website at http://www.onemap.sg/index.html
OneMap Singapore is a web-based integrated map system for government agencies in Singapore to deliver location-based services and information for the general public. Many government agencies collaborated and continue contributing information to enrich the data content. Among the services available on this portal include: find an address; get travel directions; find a school to enrol your child; query land ownership and land lot information; check on historical property prices; find properties for lease; find free public wireless hotspots, etc
SLA as land base map custodian in Singapore makes their map available for all government and private organizations. In return, public and private organization will make use of this standardize basemap to add in their operational layers, i.e. Ministry of Education will link the basemap to their website and add in more educational related information, Ministry of Heath will make use of the basemap to add in more healthcare information, other agencies will make use of the basemap to add in their coverage area, zoning, etc. At the end of the day, even though SLA offers their data for free, but they emerge as the biggest winner because they are managing a critical national geospatial assets that all agencies will depend on. They are holding the car chassis design framework layout which enable all other departments to simultaneously but independently builds their respective engine blocks that will eventually fit well into national building.
We need to have our OneMap Malaysia (or 1Malaysia Map) as foundation for our national building too.