Client Profile: Anthony Draga - Project Manager, Spatial Information Infrastructure (SII), Department of Sustainability & Environment
How do you choose the right GIS technology for your enterprise? The Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) has been a long time user of ESRI-based GIS, from the desktop to web mapping. Like many large organisations, DSE has a large number of officers who require desktop GIS tools, but seldom use advanced analytical features. Many of these officers continue to use ArcView 3x although it is outdated and not supported within DSE.
DSE contracted Spatial Vision to identify the range of cost-effective alternatives available to fulfil their requirements, including Open Source GIS. Spatial Vision undertook a market-wide review of desktop GIS products to understand the range of options available to meet the Department's functional needs, as well as the associated costs and resources required to implement any new technology.
The Spatial Vision consultants commenced by working with DSE project stakeholders to define a comprehensive set of 95 functional and 20 non-functional assessment criteria. This was followed by a desktop investigation of alternative GIS products against a sub-set of the evaluation criteria.
In total, 38 individual products were assessed, highlighting three categories of GIS software: open source, commercial and freeware - that is free software from commercial proprietors.
Nine products were shortlisted. Each of the shortlisted products were downloaded, installed and evaluated against the full set of DSE criteria. The outcome of the evaluation was the selection of two Open Source GIS products, gvSIG and Quantum GIS, for presentation to DSE project stakeholders. DSE and DPI officers were then provided with an opportunity to conduct a hands-on assessment of the useability of the two products. Overall, Quantum GIS was rated highest in functionality and useability.
Compliance Assessment for the 9 Shortlisted Products. The two Arc products failed to meet the requirement to create and edit data hence the high non-compliance.
Implementing an alternative GIS product needs to consider more than just application functionality. Consideration must also be given to the impacts of the preferred software for data storage and distribution, symbology standards, and approaches to ensure that potential users are adequately engaged, trained and supported.
Open Source software may not involve purchase costs but implementation is another matter. To assist DSE to determine the viability of the favoured Open Source solution, implementation costs across a five-year period were compared with those associated with a commercial package. This investigation confirmed the potential for the Open Source solution to deliver cost savings but only over the longer term.
DSE is now undertaking a larger trial of Quantum GIS to determine its suitability. The use of Quantum GIS is not intended to replace DSE's investment in ArcGIS for more sophisticated analysis, mapping and data management activities, rather provide a complimentary alternative for basic view, query and map production tasks.
For further information, contact Anthony Draga - Project Manager, DSE or Ishara Kotiah - GIS Consultant, Spatial Vision.