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2005 May 5


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Editor's Introduction

In this issue of GIS Monitor I report on the GIS websites maintained by the governments of Canadian provinces and territories, following up on my recent report on the GIS websites maintained by and/or for state governments in the United States.
     I also muse on how we choose where to live and one the emerging field of geodemographics and summarize the keynote address at the recent conference of the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure Association in Cairo.

— Matteo

GIS Websites of Canadian Provinces and Territories

In the March 31 and April 7 issues of GIS Monitor I reported on the GIS websites maintained by and/or for state agencies in the United States. One Canadian reader and GIS pioneer — can you guess who he is? — pointed out that I ought to do the same for the GIS websites maintained by and/or for Canadian provinces and territories. This week I followed his advice and here's what I found. This is not intended to be an exhaustive report and I am sure that I will receive many messages pointing out sites that I have missed. I will put them in the same folder in which I put messages about U.S. sites I missed and then, in a few weeks, I will compile and post a comprehensive directory of U.S. and Canadian sites.

(By the way, in Canada, the abbreviation GIS also refers to "guaranteed income supplement" — an alien concept south of the border.)


The Alberta Geological Survey (AGS), an agency of the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board, "provides geoscience information and expertise needed by government, industry, and the public for earth-resources stewardship and sustainable development in Alberta."

AGS maintains the Alberta GIS and Interactive Maps site, which is very rich and well maintained. It displays maps of the province's mineral resources; hosts a cartographic conversion tool that converts coordinates between the Alberta Township System, Universal Transverse Mercator, and lat/long; describes AGS' activities and staff; lists the agency's publications available for sale, some by download from the site; provides access to the catalog of the AGS library; and has links to more than 60 relevant sites.

The site also is a repository of GIS data and interactive geological maps that "will let you browse, query, and download GIS data. You can pan and zoom, click on features for more information, and follow hyperlinks. Linked information includes core photos, thin section photomicrographs, drillhole logs, printable maps, GIS files (datasets), and related AGS geology reports and maps." Remote sensing products are also available for download, mostly in JPG format, including 250 orthorectified RADARSAT-1 scene images for northern Alberta.


The Alberta Government also maintains the Sustainable Resource Development website, which hosts historical spatial wildfire data stored as ArcInfo coverages representing individual fire years. These coverages have been exported to interchange format and compressed into ZIP files by decade and are available for download. This site also hosts maps of data regarding wildfires, such as overnight precipitation and wildfire status.

British Columbia

The Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management (MSRM) is responsible for data on land and resources for the government of British Columbia. One of the ministry's main goals is the "effective delivery of integrated, science-based land, resource and geographic information." In pursuit of this goal, the ministry and its predecessors have used GIS since 1992 and have collected a wealth of data, software, and expertise regarding the environment and land use.

The MSRM's GIS website includes sections on data, standards, software, and links. The data section contains a spatial data warehouse that includes a data registry, a land and resource data warehouse (in ArcSDE/Oracle) and its metadata, a repository object browser, an FTP site of downloadable ARC/INFO spatial data, a forest coverage attribute database, and a map image gallery. The site also contains satellite imagery and road and watershed atlases accessible only by provincial government staff.


The Ministry of Agriculture, Food, & Fisheries has been working with many local governments in undertaking land use inventory projects in their farming areas. On its website the ministry lists the completed projects and gives examples of the maps generated, but does not provide access to the data collected in these inventories nor to the resulting products.


Manitoba Industry, Economic Development and Mines' GIS Map Gallery contains interactive maps, in three categories: maps of mineral dispositions ("portraying mineral dispositions, assessment and mineral disposition history and drill hole locations"), geoscientific maps ("at various scales portraying ... geology, geophysics, geochronology, and mineral occurrences"), and petroleum maps ("[portraying] provincial Crown oil and gas rights mineral ownership, Crown oil and gas rights dispositions, batteries/associated facilities, wells, oilfield boundaries, and orthophotos showing topography").


Manitoba's Capital Region maintains its own GIS website — an online mapping utility that enables users who may not be familiar with GIS to view and interact with various sets of data collected by the Province of Manitoba. The GIS applications within the site include data on the region's geography and resources, and current satellite imagery.

New Brunswick

Service New Brunswick, "the provincial government's chief provider of front-line services to the public," maintains the Land and Property Web page. It includes links to geographic data and maps, aerial photos, aeronautical and hydrographic charts, thematic and custom maps, and a personal property registry.

The Geographic Data and Maps section "gives access to freely available geographic information of New Brunswick, plus links to other geographic data and maps sites." The free downloads include a 1998 digital topographic database and an orthomap database. The former is "a digital representation of natural and cultural features of New Brunswick, organized into 1894 map windows (or files). It is made up of two databases: the Digital Terrain Model (DTM) Data Base and the Enhanced Topographic Base (ETB)."

Newfoundland & Labrador

The province's Environment and Conservation agency maintains the Crown Lands GIS program. According to the agency, "This program was established in 1998 to develop and maintain a digital mapping system that allows for a more efficient process of retrieving cadastral and land use information for the effective management and allocation of the Crown land resource." However, I was not able to find a website that gives access to this data.

The agency also maintains the Air Photo and Map Library. It "contains the province's aerial photography and map collection which includes topographic, orthophoto, planimetric, flood risk, and provincial electoral district mapping." A link provides ordering and price information for the maps, but no way to view them online.

In order to discourage flood-vulnerable development on flood plains, however, the province does provide downloadable flood risk public information maps, in small JPG, large JPG, and PDF formats.

Northwest Territories

The Government of the Northwest Territories' Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) maintains community parcel land information in the Administration of the Territorial Land Acts System (ATLAS), which "provides accurate graphic and written information on each parcel of land within a community's boundary." According to MACA, this supports its vision of "providing more autonomy and authority to Community Governing Authorities over the management of land within their boundaries."

The project's vision statement is to "provide users with accurate and reliable maps, and written information on every parcel of land within community boundaries. It will be accessible territorial-wide anywhere, anytime and will be easy to use." For starters, a pilot project currently provides access to ten community maps; in the future, MACA plans to add communities to the ATLAS website as soon as the land verification process is complete for each one. The site also provides a tutorial to the data sets, the application layout, and the application tool.

The territories' Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Wildlife Division, which administers the Northwest Territories Biodiversity Action Plan, provides access to a set of current and historical maps. The department also produced a very helpful guide to GIS capacities in the territories.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia's Department of Natural Resources' GIS Section maintains a forest database within its Spatially Related Forest Resources (SRFR) information system. According to the department, the SRFR "contains a wide range of thematic layers, including comprehensive forest stand descriptions, ownership information, wildlife habitat information, wetlands information, natural and protected areas as well as data collected from the integrated resources planning ... process. The data is available on a stand by stand basis, which can be rolled up into Regional and Provincial summaries."

The Forest Land Cover layer is available as shapefiles. The data is available as self-executing zipfiles which contain the shapefile for the area in question as well as a copy of the license agreement and a PDF of the attribute descriptions.

The department also maintains a Restricted and Limited Use Land Database Downloads page, which contains data for such themes as wilderness areas, Indian reserve lands, and pipeline corridors, in three map projections: MTM ATS77, UTM NAD83, and UTM NAD27.


I was not able to find a relevant website for this territory.


Ontario's provincial government provides extensive online GIS resources. Land Information Ontario (LIO) maintains a website that includes links to Ontario's Land Information Directory (OLID), a searchable index of Ontario's land information; the Ontario Land Information Warehouse, a web-enabled data browser; and Ontario Parcel, the authorized digital representation of Ontario's land parcels.

LIO's website also has a link to Make a Topographical Map; unfortunately, the server did not respond when I tried using this service.

The province's Ministry of Natural Resources — the provincial lead for land information — has led the establishment of GeoSmart, a funding initiative designed to facilitate the implementation and enhancement of GIS in Ontario communities. GeoSmart provides funding of up to 50 percent of a project's total eligible costs in such business areas as economic development, land use planning, asset management, public health and safety, emergency services, and data warehousing. The project's website provides guidance to communities interested in applying for these funds, but does not actually house any of the products (yet).

Prince Edward Island

The Government of Prince Edward Island recently passed a GIS Policy Statement (this link was dead when I tried it) that resulted in the creation of a website providing access to GIS data and other geospatial services and aiming to "simplify the ability of all levels of government and citizens to find geographical data."

The website provides access to a variety of GIS data, both free and priced. A GIS Data Catalog has links to index maps and basemap, community and social boundaries, emergency, civic address, electoral, imagery, property, and transportation data.

The province has recently adopted the PEI Coordinate System as an official survey and mapping reference system.


Québec's natural resources department, Ressources naturelles et Faune, provides an atlas of GIS products. To download a product, you first select one of 14 regions, then a scale (1:250,000 or 1:50,000 and 1:20,000), then a map type (there are 24 types, including "diamond drilling," "rock geochemistry," and my favorite, "erratic boulder" — but not all of them are available for all regions and scales), and finally a period (any month since January 1996). You can then purchase via the site the map thus selected. It does not appear that you can download it.

The department also provides access to general, hydrographic, mining, geologic, and other maps via its Maps/Plans Web page.


The Information Services Corporation (ISC) of Saskatchewan is responsible for the province's land survey system and the system of registering ownership of, and interests in, land. Through mapping services, geographic information, and a proposed online title registry, ISC "will support all individuals and sectors involved in land transactions and the management of land-based and infrastructure-based resources."

The Geomatics section of the website has a link to ISC's Maps and Digital Data Products Online Catalogue. There users can choose from among five product types — digital cadastral, digital topographic, digital general purpose, digital special purpose, and hardcopy — and five product names — rural cadastral datasheet, urban cadastral datasheet, township fabric dataset, northern theoretic township dataset, and township fabric point dataset. For each combination, the site returns metadata and pricing information; however, it does not provide a way to download the datasets.


Geomatics Yukon — a unit of the Client Services division of the Information and Communications Technology Branch of the Department of Highways and Public Works of the Government of Yukon — "provides corporate coordination, support, and liaison for geomatics activities within the Yukon Goverment and with external partners and customers, addresses gaps in geomatics activities and data, and provides a single window through which customers can access Yukon spatial data and services."

Geomatics Yukon maintains the Yukon Spatial Data Clearinghouse, which provides free data for download; copyrighted data available to NRCan licenced users; the ability to view, query, and print interactive maps; free downloadable maps of the Yukon; and Yukon metadata.

Geomatics Yukon's FTP site provides access to Yukon satellite mosaic, enhanced natural color Landsat 7 data with shaded relief composite scenes, orthorectified Landsat 7 scenes, 90 millimeter digital elevation models, and geology, mining, forestry, and fire data.

Geomatics Yukon's Maps Yukon Web page — maintained in cooperation with Yukon Geological Survey and Yukon Energy, Mines, and Resources — features interactive geology, oil and gas, and mining maps of Yukon, as well as imagery and metadata.


About ten years ago, I wrote the following paragraph, as the opening to a study of telecommuting:

"The technology that is changing the way we live and work is once again beginning to change where we live and work. It happened at the dawn of civilization, when the agricultural revolution first allowed formerly nomadic hunters and gatherers to settle, and build cities. It happened when maritime transport made ports the hub of trade. It happened when the incipient industrial revolution drew workers from widely dispersed villages into tightly packed cities, vastly expanding existing ones and giving rise to new ones. It happened when railroads bridged the gap between frontier settlements and the established centers of commerce. It happened when affordable automobiles spawned suburbia. It is happening again, now that much of our economy is based on information."

My point was that, increasingly, people's choice of where to live is independent of their choice of jobs. Today I, for example, live in Eugene, Oregon, because I love this state's natural beauty, weather, and tradition of political independence and innovation — but I work for a company based in Frederick, Maryland, because it publishes the periodicals that I want to edit. While a variety of factors, which I discussed in my study, have impeded the expansion of telecommuting, this trend continues.

What I envisioned ten years ago was that people would belong, simultaneously, to two communities: the virtual, online community of their colleagues and of others whose interests they shared — and the actual, physical neighborhood they inhabited. (I also envisioned a third, hybrid community developing at neighborhood telecommuting centers: people working side by side but for entirely different companies, based far apart from each other.)

As it turns out, while "virtual communities" are made ever more possible by fast and cheap Internet access, people still choose to cluster in physical communities with "people like them or people they'd like to become like," according to Jan Kestle, the president of the Canadian company Environics Analytics. Kestle was quoted in a fascinating article that appeared on April 29 in the Vancouver Sun, on geodemographics — a form of segmentation analysis explicitly coupled with a spatial component. Retailers increasingly rely on geodemographics to decide where to place stores, with what products to stock them, and how to tailor their advertising to each store's geographic community. As the article points out, this is based on two premises: that people's buying decisions reflect the values of the social segment to which they belong — and that people with the same values live together. Others, however, such as legendary pollster Daniel Yankelovich, question the first of these two premises, thereby making the second one irrelevant to marketing efforts.

Mapping and analyzing the spatial distribution of social values, employment, and residential choices — a perfect task for GIS! What do you think?

Global Spatial Data Infrastructure Association

Global Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI) Association, in cooperation with the International Federation of Surveyors and the Egyptian Survey Authority, held the 8th GSDI conference in Cairo, Egypt, April 16-21, on the theme "Spatial Data in an Information Society." The conference attracted more than 1,000 registrants from 80 countries. Scientists, engineers, GIS and GPS specialists, land administrators, and surveying practitioners participated in 51 technical sessions, several workshops, and five plenary sessions, and presented more than 400 papers.

The GSDI Association fosters the development of spatial data infrastructures that support sustainable social, economic, and environmental systems integrated from local to global scales and promotes the informed and responsible use of geographic information and spatial technologies for the benefit of society. GSDI programs facilitate exchange of information on infrastructure issues, standards-based data access and discovery, applications development, capacity building, and SDI development and research.

The GSDI Association elected Professor Harlan Onsrud, of the University of Maine, as president and Jarmo Ratia, Director General, National Land Survey of Finland, as vice-president. The association also honored the U.S. Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC), ESRI, and Intergraph for providing it critical core support in its formative stages. On hand to receive the honors were Ivan DeLoatch, Staff Director, FGDC; Jack Dangermond, President, ESRI; and Preetha Pulusani, President, Intergraph Mapping and Geospatial Solutions.


At the conference, Mukund Rao, from India, the association's outgoing president, reported on the organization's progress during its first year. (The GSDI Association was incorporated towards the end of 2003, though it existed earlier as an international ad-hoc committee).

The association's principal achievement, according to Rao, was that it institutionalized the process of international GSDI Sponsored Projects funded by members and donors. He particularly thanked the U.S. Geological Survey, ESRI, and Intergraph as key contributors. The projects are aimed at showcasing and demonstrating how spatial technologies would be of use in different parts of the world and help create a critical mass in many nations and international agencies to undertake GIS activities.

The second achievement that Rao listed was the development and hosting of a website/portal for information about GSDI, SDI technologies, and applications.

The third achievement was cooperation with other international bodies — particularly the World Summit of Information Societies, the International GEO Forum, and the Working Group on Information Systems and Services (WGISS) of the International Committee on EO Systems. The GEO Forum is an Earth observation group that is working to bring about an international Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) — especially in the areas of disaster mitigation and environmental monitoring. GEO's 10-year plan mentions GSDI explicitely. Rao told the audience that WGISS, in which he has participated, has set up an Earth observation portal, an EO global datasets archive, an international data network, a WGISS Search Protocol, and many other tools of use to GSDI practitioners.

Internally, the association has established a Technical Working Group, a Legal and Economic Working Group, a Communications Committee (to handle outreach), a Membership Committee, a Conference Planning Committee, a GSDI Sponsored Projects Committee, and an Industry Advisory Council. These committees are expected to soon produce technical documents to be published by GSDI. "So, hopefully, in the next one year," Rao said, "you will see a lot of documentation coming out of GSDI."

Additionally, the association has been publishing an electronic GSDI newsletter and regional SDI newsletters for Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean and the GSDI Cookbook has been translated into Spanish. Membership growth, on the other hand, has been slow compared to expectations.

Planning continues for the GSDI conferences — which help the association recruit new members, focus on global, regional, and local SDI issues, and raise funds. The next conference, GSDI-9, will be held in Santiago, Chile.

A draft GSDI Strategy and Action Plan is in the works, Rao reported, but the association has been "stumbling" with regards to setting up an International GSDI Secretariat, which India has offered to host in Bangalore.

The association has hired a professional business director, Allan Doyle, who has been handling all administrative, financial, and legal matters.

Looking forward, Rao identified membership growth as the association's top priority. Currently it has about 30 institutional members and another 20 or 30 individual members, he said. (Frankly, I expected the association to have at least ten times as many individual members.) Another priority is making the association as financially independent and self-sustaining as possible.

The association, Rao said, needs good publications — especially ones offering a global perspective and case studies — and regional and local workshops and meetings. Another very important requirement, he added, is training and education in the field of SDI and he challenged universities to step up to the plate. He also suggested linking with UN agencies.

Finally, Rao boldly proclaimed that he would like to see the GSDI Association become the most influential international body in the "spatial" arena with regards to technology, applications, and policies and stressed the need to make the association "as inclusive as possible."

Department of Corrections

In the
April 21 issue I wrote up DataXchanger, produced by Geospatial Solutions, but forgot to hotlink the company's name to its website. I regret the omission.

News Briefs

Please note: I have culled the following news items from press releases and have not independently verified them.


PCI Geomatics' Geomatica software and training services are helping the Multinational Andean Project: Geoscience for Andean Communities (MAP:GAC) with disaster planning and prediction. The MAP:GAC project was established to provide people in the Andes with updated and integrated geospatial information on natural hazards like earthquakes, landslides, and volcanoes. Geomatica software will be an integral part of this process. PCI Geomatics is a developer of image-centric geomatics software solutions. Training services provided by PCI Geomatics include automatic DEM extraction, terrain analysis, pansharpening, and orthorectification of air photos and satellite data — including ASTER, QuickBird, and EROS. Training also allows users to monitor and analyze a larger area of land than would otherwise be possible with ground surveys.

OneGIS, Inc. has chosen Utility GeoSolutions, LLC to provide marketing communications services and business development assistance to aid in its growth in the utility and government GIS services market. Mr. Bud Porter, a GIS industry veteran and principal at Utility GeoSolutions, will provide ongoing business development, marketing assistance, and marketing communications services directly to OneGIS — as well as GIS business process and needs assessment services to OneGIS customers on a subcontract basis.
     OneGIS, Inc. is a consulting and outsourcing firm specializing in the development of turnkey GIS solutions for the electric, gas, water, wastewater, storm water, and municipal government markets. It focuses its development, customization, and implementation efforts solely on ESRI-based applications. Utility GeoSolutions, LLC is a GIS consulting firm specializing in infrastructure and facilities management solutions for utilities, telecom companies, and government entities. It offers management consulting, needs assessment, business case development, business process analysis, and project management to this market as well as marketing consulting and business development assistance to GIS vendor firms.

The Colorado Chapter of the American Public Works Association has honored the City of Golden, Colorado with the Public Works Project Award for its public works asset management system. In 1999 the city implemented CartêGraph software in an effort to better understand the condition and location of its infrastructure. The software allows the city to track field assets, along with determining what work has been completed and future work to be scheduled.
     Using GPS receivers, the city has tracked the location of such assets as fire hydrants, water valves, water meters, sanitary and storm manholes, storm inlets and outfall, detention ponds, and street signs. It has set up maintenance schedules to ensure the assets are functioning properly and the database information can be viewed graphically on a map in conjunction with ESRI's ArcGIS.
      The city is also implementing a citywide project of videotaping all of its sanitary sewer lines.
     In February the City of University Park, Texas (pop. 23,324), a suburb of Dallas, went live with an enterprise work management system from CartêGraph. Using the software, each week city staff take all requests made to the city's website and develop a report for the City Council. All requests made on the website are on the agenda at the weekly meeting and available to the citizens in the council minutes. The CartêGraph software has also been customized to track activity in other city departments.

Solana Networks, in collaboration with ESRI Canada and Sombra Labs, has developed a system that will assess the vulnerability of information technology (IT) infrastructure to physical threats — such as earthquakes, severe weather, or terrorist attacks.
     The system, developed as part of a project commissioned by Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, supports the monitoring and visualization of IT networks within a GIS and is capable of showing how threats to a geographic area will impact IT infrastructure. It enables users to perform line of site analysis for wireless network components, networking vulnerability analysis, forecasting threats to networks, and assessing topological relations between network components and other features (e.g. routers and buildings, fiber optics and electrical grids). The project was demonstrated using IT infrastructure at Carleton University as well as the CANARIE network.


ESRI has launched Tracking Server, a solution for collecting and sending near real-time data from many data sources and formats to Web and desktop clients. Tracking Server was developed by Northrop Grumman to enable the integration of real-time data with GIS.
     Tracking Server offers an extensible architecture that allows it to receive data from new sources and transmit that data to new clients; the ability to log data as it is received to ArcSDE or distribute it directly to clients including ArcGIS Tracking Analyst; and a tracking message server component and a tracking Web distribution component that work together to collect and distribute data to the people who use it on the Web and as desktop clients.
     Tracking Server has already been implemented by ESRI business partner CompassCom, a provider of solutions for GIS field data collection and automated vehicle location. Other uses include real-time tracking of assets through the supply chain life cycle. Tracking Server is an enterprise-level technology that is integrated with ESRI's other server and services products.


Health professionals from around the world will gather in Chicago, Illinois, October 23-26, at the 2005 ESRI Health GIS Conference to discuss the role GIS technology plays in health and human services. Speakers from the fields of public health practice, health care delivery and financing, academic health sciences, and health-related businesses will examine how they are using GIS to improve health and the way it is delivered, financed, and evaluated.
     Conference highlights will include discussions on the emerging field of clinical surveillance as well as tracking infectious diseases, identifying gaps in childhood immunizations, conducting market studies and documenting the health care needs of a community, managing logistics, publishing geographic health care information on the Internet, and managing patient care environments and clinical resources in widely distributed hospitals and health care systems.


ESRI Canada is increasing its presence in Atlantic Canada with the opening of a Fredericton office. Established in 1984, ESRI Canada is a Canadian-owned company specializing in GIS solutions and services. The company is the official distributor of ESRI's GIS solutions and also distributes software solutions from NovaLIS Technologies, Miner and Miner, Telcordia, and Azteca. With the opening of the Fredericton office, ESRI Canada now has twelve regional offices across the country.

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