Sunday, February 05, 2012

SPISYS – A Google Earth Alternative?

SPISYS is a sophisticated Geographical Information System (GIS) developed for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. SPISYS is being developed by Fanie Minnie and his team in South Africa.

The SPISYS idea came about when Fanie Minnie and Hennie Stander, a GIS manager for Mangaung (Bloemfontein's municipality), realised there were high levels of frustration because people didn't have access to certain data sets.

SPISYS was developed to integrate diverse data, and to simplify and streamline a process that ordinarily takes months, into an instantaneous solutions platform.

Minnie's efforts are geared towards what boils down to a more structured way of bringing information together, which will enable more 'collaborative governance' and cut out duplication.

Starting in April 2011, with a budget of R6 million, the two-year project is currently focused on photographing the Free State on half-metre resolution (Google Earth is typically 30 to 70 metres, peaking at around 20-metre resolution). “With SPISYS,” Minnie says, “you'll be able to see the white stripes on a tar road.”

GIS on steroids

With SPISYS, you'll be able to see the white stripes on a tar road.
But the idea is more than just a high-resolution map. Minnie's groundbreaking vision involves integrating data from as many as 15 sector departments, which will facilitate land use, and solve what he describes as “the riddle of what's happening where”.

“I wanted (the developers) to build me a cloud,” says Minnie of his prerequisite for this project. Thus SPISYS, being Internet-based, is accessible to users anywhere in the world.

The project will use the same servers used by SARS, buried in a secure bunker near Pretoria.

But why not just rely on Google Earth?

“Everybody is creating a GIS,” Minnie responds. “That's not new. The challenge is getting the data. We're not creating a separate system; we're creating a sharing platform. Some of our data can be directly exported to Google Earth, especially on the public side.”

Minnie explains how the technology can enable the average person: “What this means is a developer in Bethlehem can find out online the status of parcels of land. For example, whether the land is for sale, how it is zoned, what the flood plains are around a river, even the nature of the vegetation.”

Interestingly, the platform also allows citizens to upload issues such as potholes, water or sewerage leaks, so that the required services can be accurately reported and logged.

Mobile devices can also use SPISYS. Says Minnie: “It has been specifically developed for iPhones, and works best on Chrome. It also works on Android. The mobile application is important because we want people to make decisions where they are.”

The SPISYS project provides two solutions:

Public View
* Land information, e.g. diagrams, general plans
* Photography, e.g. satellite imagery, hybrid imagery, aerial photography, relief imagery
* Public data from government departments to add value to your project layout

Government View
* Data repository with real-time links
* Planning system
* Interactive routing of information and planning cycles
* Executive reporting



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