basemap.at – Creating a free harmonized Web Basemap for Austria
Public Consortium of the 9 Austrian Provinces (GIS Departments)

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Data acquisition in Austria is not that easy, because Austria has 9 provinces and each province administration is responsible for the surveying, the updating, the distribution and the pricing policy of their geo-data. Besides the Federal Office of Metrology and Surveying has the national mandate for making topographic maps in Austria and therefore this governmental organisation has their own data, which also can be bought. basemap.at is a project aiming at offering a free up-to-date and harmonized web base map for the whole state of Austria and for ANY PURPOSE, which is primarily based on administrative data. Why is there a need for another base map besides Google Maps, Bing Maps, OSM and others? The key aspect of basemap.at is, that it is based on administrational data, which are harmonized and kept up-to-date by the institutions, which create the data. This is a major advantage in comparison to existing base maps which are collected from various sources (proprietary maps) or have inhomogeneous data coverage (e.g. OpenStreetMap (OSM). In contrast, basemap.at consists of data created by institutions which are required to create the base data in a specified data quality by law, partly resulting in legally binding data. Therefore a high level of data quality is guaranteed. In Austria, some of the federal provinces already produce province-specific renderings of their geo data. However, until now these services are limited to each province territory; data and styles between the province versions are not mandatorily harmonized. To ensure compatibility to other web mapping services basemap.at is published in the worldwide open standard Web Map Tile Service (WMTS) and with the Open Government License of Austria – Creative Commons (CC BY 3.0 AT), which allows the distribution of the map for private and commercial use at no charge. Regarding loading speed, services using basemap.at can use the map tiles hosting of basemap.at which will be equipped with state-of-the-art hardware power and reliability (see Implementation) or host the tiles on their own resources.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
In order to improve the situation for an open and free Austrian basemap, this project was initiated from the Geographic Consortium of the 9 Austrian Provinces (geoland.at). As mentioned before, basemap.at relies on administrational data. It is not aiming at creating new data, as it just uses data the Austrian province governments are creating anyway in order to full fill their administrative tasks. Also geoland.at — the geodata cooperation of the federal provinces of Austria (www.geoland.at) — followed this principle since the beginning. Geoland.at is an organizational and partly also technical network of the federal administrations, for making the decentrally organized geodata of the provinces available in a joint view for the user. Basemap.at goes one step further by publishing a technical and content-wise standardized webmap, based on the data of the provinces and published on the basis of an open standard. The great success of basemap.at confirms the strategy, we implemented with the project. One year after the initial publication basemap.at has more than three million requests per day and is integrated in numerous webclients.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The project implementation of basemap.at is an innovative model of partnership between different levels of government, industry and university. It includes the co-financing of projects on geographic information and the free distribution of its products. The initiative was successful in meeting the needs and requirements of all stakeholders while fostering inter-governmental collaboration to launch a Geographical Information System (GIS) in Austria. Through the use of improved technology it is now easier to capture and make available geographical information for better services and at a lower cost. Before basemap.at there existed NO map of the whole state, which could be used for free for any purpose, which covered the whole state of Austria in a harmonised cartographic model, even up to a mapscale 1: 1.000 (where you can see any building and addresscode) and which is hosted in a high performance production environment for maximum of performance. Before basemap.at there existed no governmental map of Austria, which could be integrated in any kind of Client (Desktop, Web, App, etc.) for any purpose via a standardised service covering cartographic or navigation needs of any social group or stakeholder (like government, business or science).

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The conceptual design of basemap.at’s architecture and its workflows is partly based on experiences of the involved province administrations as well as of the private sector partner. The Vienna city administration gained practical experiences in the Open Government Data (OGD) Vienna WMTS (Web Map Tile Service) which is online since 2011 Still, the basemap.at project brings up new challenges, especially in the technological field, that were never experienced in similar form in Austria. This includes the organization of the supply of always up-to-date base data in a distributed manner as well as the technology of very fast updating and copying the database. A lot of hardware-tests were done to get the best solution. Our conceptual design includes the following workflow: All partners who contribute data transfer their geodata to a central file service. It is important to note that it is not centrally specified when or in which quantity those uploads have to be done. These decisions are in the sole responsibility of the distributed data partners. However, file name standards and minimal data model requirements have to be met. A centrally controlled process accesses the uploaded files at the file service and prepares them for the tile caching software. The biggest challenge here is the translation of geodata into a cartographic model that meets the high performance requirements. The resulting proprietary tile cache is transformed into the standardized Web Mercator (Auxiliary Sphere, EPSG:3857, EPSG 2012) tile cache, which is then accessed by the centrally implemented Web Map Tile Service. Of course, the production system (tile cache and WMTS web service) is implemented in a fail-safe manner. This not only requires adequate hardware dimensions but also a data processing center with service monitoring components and trained standby staff. All of this is given in the data processing center of the Vienna city administration. The implementation of this project is done in two phases. In the first phase, a prototype (containing data from eastern parts of Austria) was completed as WMTS until the ITS World Congress 2012 in October 2012. In the second phase, which was finished with the end of 2013, the workflow for constant data supply by the data contributors and the incremental tile cache updates were implemented. Additionally, the production system (including suitable hardware) was set up until the end of 2013. Since 2014 basemap.at is official released. The project was managed by the City of Vienna. During the whole phase of implementation, there was no delay, quite the contrary: because of the great success of basemap.at the project team decided to develop further basemap.at product variations in 2014. These additional products concern a gray-version, a transparent overlay-map and a high resolution map, which fits best for high resolution displays of mobile devices.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
Collaborative partners of basemap.at are the GIS-Departments of the 9 federal provinces of Austria (GEOLAND.AT), Verkehrsverbund Ost-Region (VOR) GmbH, ITS Vienna Region, SynerGlS Informationssysteme GmbH and Vienna University of Technology. The project was sponsored by the Climate and Energy Fonds, Austria. There were associated partners like the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns, ARGE OEVV, AGEO (the umbrella organisation of geoinformation in Austria) and the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
All partners in this project have done their share of human and financial resources. In addition, the project was cofunded by the Climate and Energy Fund.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
Basemap.at is offering a first up-to-date and harmonized web base map for the whole state of Austria,which is primarily based on administrative data. The sustainability of basemap.at is a core topic. Basemap.at can be used free of charge, even for commercial purpose. Basemap.at is hostet in a high performance and stable environment. Basemap.at covers the whole state of Austria in a level of detail up to 1:1000 with entire information on buildings and addresses- Since the launch at the beginning of 2014, basemap.at has be integrated in many applications, like “Firmen A-Z” of Austrian Economic Chamber, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance, the Austrian traffic information portal (www.verkehrsauskunft.at).

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The project was guided by a strict project management through the city of Vienna (=project coordination). There were regular meetings for coordination of the project progress. Furthermore, earnings reports were delivered. All information sessions and meetings were delivered via the Folio Cloud (www.foliocloud.com) with all project partners online. The settlement of resources was carried out according to strict specifications. In addition there were semi-annual detailed reports to the Climate and Energy Fonds Austria, which cofounded the project. During development, there were several testing phases and test results influenced further activities.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The main challenges identified so far are Cartographic (data harmonization, generalization) and technical implementation. Harmonization: basemap.at is based on data created by different institutions (mainly province administrations). Even though there are major efforts for standards in data creation, applying unified visualization styles exposed smaller and bigger differences in the data creation. For now, this will be handled by using partly province-specific style definitions to avoid an unbalanced design. For the future, it will be a task for all partners to further harmonize their data. Generalization: The scale of basemap.at range from approximately 1:100 to 113,000,000. The data from the contributors are usually created in one defined level of detail, fitting a certain scale. To ensure a legible and aesthetically pleasing result on all the other zoom levels, generalization is needed. Of course, this is not a new topic in cartography and a large field in cartographic research is dedicated to it (e.g. ICA Commission on Generalization and Multiple Representation). However, it's still a challenge to implement generalization in an automated visualization environment, which allows incremental updates. Similar to harmonization, this is not just a technical issue, it also identifies requirements for the data. A further challenge, was the implementation of the production workflow and the finding of the best hardware “setup”. Basemap.at is updated bimonthly. This requires an outstanding architecture to manage the great amount of processed data.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
A main benefit of basemap.at is the up-to-dateness of the geodata it is based on. The intention was to create a base map of Austria that is as up-to-date as the source data it is based on. This is ensured both by the technical workflow but also by the organizational workflow policies in the partner organizations regarding the continuous updating of the data. Basemap.at is a key-example of excellent partnership of different governmental organisations, creating a complete new service for all stakeholders, enhancing the status of government as a seriously geodata service provider, even in our days, where it seems that google & Co has the control over the geocontent of local governmental players. Basemap.at demonstrates the role of public administrations as service providers, offering services free of charge for the public, while optimizing internal processes concerning costs and efforts : one map of whole of Austria, for all purposes, for all administration units in Austria, no barrier for implementing, no contract for use required, just integrate it in the own environment and start working. Basemp.at is the first national map that facilitates such easy handling.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
There is no doubt that the Austrian provinces are an important geodata provider, even in future. Despite of Google & Co it’s to the regional governments to produce their geodata in a quality proofed manner. Basemap.at uses these official geodata, this will not change in future. On the other hand, basemap.at is launched and hosted by the new data processing department of the City of Vienna, which is responsible for the whole electronic data traffic of the city administration. The financial aspects are controlled using SAP-software, which contains all costs of the infrastructure components in a very detailed way. The partners have an earmarked budget for financing the hosting of basemap.at. Since the start of basemap.at at the beginning of 2014, we have enormous positive feedback. Reflecting the unique position of basemap.at in Austria, it can be an excellent example and pioneer for similar initiatives in other Europe countries. In Austria we have no knowledge of comparable national maps in other countries, matching the same criteria. Because of the outstanding effort, basemap.at got an ESRI Special Achievement Award 2014 (http://www.mysynergis.com/news/details/id/1114/)

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
We have learned from the project that it has a great benefit to many, if administrative geodata are developed into a freely available product. This creates added value for many developers and companies. Moreover, it was very important to note especially the harmonization of administrative data. In the administration there are many spatial data that must be collected by law. All these data are now transformed into a permanently updated product. It was important that experts of various fields have worked together in this project. In addition to public managers engineers and cartographers. The combination of different competencies allows a great new and very innovative product. basemap.at is a milestone - not only - in Austria. There is great interest in this product beyond the borders of Austria too. From this we learn that even a small country like Austria can cause great things. Thus The initiative basemap.at has the format to be a role model for others.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Public Consortium of the 9 Austrian Provinces (GIS Departments)
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Thomas Ebert
Title:   Mag. MAS(GIS)  
Telephone/ Fax:   +43 732 7720 12606
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   thomas.ebert@ooe.gv.at  
Address:   Bahnhofplatz 1
Postal Code:   A-4020
City:   Linz
State/Province:   Upper Austria
Country:  

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