Queensland goes global to expose spatial data

By Paul Hemsley

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has officially launched a new free computer program called ‘Queensland Globe’ that he claims will allow users to apply state government data to Google Earth satellite images as the latest part of the government’s push for a so-called ‘open data revolution’.

The launch is the latest part of a push by the state government that aims to create conditions for private sector innovators to come up with fixes to the state’s problems by releasing as much government information as possible and was first announced in October 2012.

State governments around Australia have come under intense pressure to open up their public data holdings to private enterprise so that new applications can be more quickly developed and distributed rather than waiting for less agile government agencies to come up with solutions.

The Queensland Globe program is one result of a wider public sector campaign to kick-start private sector interest in solving government, policy and service delivery problems and provides an online tool that plugs key state-held data – such as tenure status, property boundaries, postcode, locality or electoral boundaries – straight into Google Earth.

Some of the uses for the new application include addressing uncertainty faced by the public, businesses and insurers following serious flooding in 2011 and 2013 that made purchasing and insuring property in flood zones a confusing and difficult.

“The property development industry and potential home buyers will now be able to analyse flood lines from the 2011 and 2013 flood events when evaluating a potential home or land purchase,” Mr Newman said.

Mr Newman said opportunities from the information in Queensland Globe will also provide benefits for educational institutions and community groups as well as the private sector.

“Science and geography teachers now have a free and powerful tool to help students learn about our vast state, while high quality aerial photography could be used to help attract investors from interstate and overseas,” he said.

In addition to being accessible on any computer, the Queensland Globe program is fully compatible with Android phone and tablet devices.

The Newman government’s latest move to incorporate property addresses into public data sets is not entirely without controversy.

One issue that governments around the world have been forced to contend with is the potential for invasion of privacy and threats to national security that stems from publicly available aerial and drive-by photo mapping.

In 2007 private security analysts surprised military agencies when they spotted a previously secret Chinese submarine docked at a naval base using images from Google Earth.

Google has responded to government and privacy concerns by obscuring and digitally blurring people’s faces, car number plates and imagery of sensitive locations in some nations.

With Julian Bajkowski

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