Abdul Ghapar Othman
School of Housing, Building and Planning
Universiti Sains Malaysia
Kausar Hj Ali
School of Housing, Building and Planning
Universiti Sains Malaysia
Database applications have been developed by employing the internet technology to manage and enhance data on movement of goods, people and information between places.
The demand for fast, accurate and reliable information has resulted in the development of information technology systems that are capable of storing, processing, analyzing and utilizing large volumes of data. Such systems include the Executive Information System (EIS), Management Information
System (MIS), Geographic Information System (GIS) and the Land Information System (LIS) among others. While some of these two information systems have engaged the communication networking and internet technology for data management and dissemination purposes, others still operate on stand-alone basis for security reasons. The advanced development of these information systems has provided system administrators choices on whether to network their systems or to let them run on stand-alone basis. Some systems started as stand-alone before employing the Local Area Network (LAN) technology and finally proceeded to the internet once they are matured. The process to maturity might take years depending mostly on the availability of technology, sufficient financial resources and most important of all, the availability of skilled and knowledge workers. Nevertheless, repeated technical and management issues and problems related to policies and structure of data maintenance arises within an organization as well as problems in data dissemination to users are also leading factors that could push forward the need for a solution of better information management through a networking system (Hart, 1994). The PEGIS Centre, a statewide GIS centre for the Penang State in Malaysia, which has been occupied persistently by the above issues and problems had taken a step forward by utilizing the internet technology as a solution to the data dissemination problem to its users.
The development of PEGIS Map Browser in year 2000, an internet map browser application has benefited many users. This paper will also describe some of the features of this internet map browser that eventually helped the State government reduce spending on high end computer workstation, expensive GIS software and GIS training.
A GIS was developed for the state of Penang, Malaysia in 1992. With it’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 6.9% per annum between year 2000 to 2005 and manufacturing being the main economic sector, the State of Penang is considered as one of the most industrialized and developed states in Malaysia (Toh, 2005). The main objective of this one-stop GIS data provider agency is to increase the
efficiency and the effectiveness of the State Government of Penang in data management by using GIS as a tool for spatial database development and dissemination to various government agencies.
1992 – 1994: The Pilot Project
The PEGIS Centre is located at the KOMTAR Tower in George Town, Penang. Established as a GIS unit under the Penang’s State Government Secretariat Office, PEGIS is solely a state government multi-agency GIS. It started as a two-year pilot project covering a study area of approximately 74 km sq in Seberang Perai, which is located on the mainland of Malaysia. Various government agencies were involved in the project including several Federal and State agencies and two local authorities. Data were exchanged and channeled between agencies constantly and these data were then retraced and duplicated according to one’s needs and requirements. To overcome this tradition, the implementation of a statewide GIS in the State is hoped to play an important role in ensuring that each government agency is only responsible in creating and updating its own data while exchange of data between agencies will be channeled through the PEGIS Centre.
In dealing with policies and matters related to this pilot project, three committees were set up on behalf of the State Government to oversee the development and monitor the progress of the project. These committees were the PEGIS Steering Committee (PSC) chaired by the Chief Minister of Penang, the PEGIS Management Committee (PMC) chaired by the Penang State Secretariat, and the PEGIS Data Administration Committee (PDAC) chaired by the Director of the Penang State Computer Centre. Members of these committees included directors and officers from various government agencies participated in the project. A consortium comprising of GIS related private companies, the ECS Consortium, was formed to assist in the setting up of the PEGIS Centre in addition to developing GIS applications and managing the cadastral database while the Universiti Sains Malaysia was appointed to collect and analyze non-cadastral data for the State.
After benchmarking some of the available softwares, the Penang State Government had chosen Arc Info as the main GIS software since it met most of the requirements and standards for this project. Eight Arc Info licenses running on HP-UX were purchased from ESRI along with two licenses of PC Arc Info running on MS-DOS and two licenses of PC Arc view (ECS Consortium and USM, 1992). Each of the Arc Info HP-UX licenses cost about RM 80,000 (USD 20,000), while the PC version cost about RM 25,000 (USD 625). The eight Arc Info licenses were residing on a HP-UX server and were linked to four HP workstations and four personal computers (PC). Data were stored on a mass storage device and backed up on a Digital Data Storage (DDS) Tape Drive. Each of the HP workstation cost about RM 70,000 (USD 17,500) while the PC at RM10,000 (USD 5,000) each. Four A0 size digitizers were also added to these HP workstations including an A0 size electrostatic plotter (USD 87,500). Most of the data supplied to the PEGIS Centre were in analog form and conversion to digital form as well as maintenance of these data were done by representatives from each agency at the PEGIS Centre.
Fig. 1: Web Page of PEGIS Map Browser
1994 – 1999: The Interim Period
With the successful implementation of the PEGIS Pilot Project, the Penang State Government had decided to extend the project throughout the state. No new applications were developed and most resources were utilized for the creation and maintenance of additional data for the whole state.
The PEGIS databases were finally completed in mid 1999 along with other digital map bases. Almost all of the spatial digital map bases were converted into the state plane coordinates utilizing the Cassini-Solder projection.
ISSUES AND PROBLEMS
Users Have to Come to PEGIS Centre
For users to do any reference or to check on land-related data or to perform GIS functions on layers of GIS data, they would have to come to the Centre. They felt more comfortable with the presence of PEGIS staff assisting them when necessary. This is especially true when users have limited understanding of the GIS process but need to utilize the data.
The cost of map printing depends on the size of the map requested. An AO size map would cost users about RM55 (USD14) each, which covers the cost of paper and ink. This cost does not include the time spent by the PEGIS staff to prepare a map. Using the Arc Info-UX application (Arc plot) was not an easy task since the application is command based and not user friendly. On average, an AO size map would take at a least a working day for PEGIS staff to prepare.
Any data requested from the PEGIS Centre, whether it’s digital data or hard copies such as plans or maps, required official approvals from the PEGIS management and the data providers. This procedure was part of the policy set by the PDC to protect the PEGIS Centre and data providers from any misuse or abuse of data by users.
Urgent Request for Data
The PEGIS Centre often received urgent request for maps or plans from government agencies to aid in crucial decision making process by the State Legislative. Such an urgent request would normally by pass the bureaucratic procedures mentioned above. Even though relevant government agencies may have staff trained in GIS, they would prefer to pass it down to PEGIS to handle such urgent matters.
Map preparation and production were meticulous and tedious tasks that require lots of detailing, and sometimes additional data processing and analyzing.
GIS Facility: A High Cost Setup
Setting up a GIS facility was very costly during the interim period. Government agencies in the State can’t afford to spend up to RM120,000 (USD30,000) for a single, stand-alone GIS station equipped with PC, an AO size digitizer, a color
plotter and a GIS software such as Arc view, even though this is a one-time cost. For a network GIS facility, the cost would be more if it is to linked to the PEGIS database that utilized the UNIX operating system (OS).
Additional Workload for PEGI Staff
The increasing number of requests for GIS data from users had added more workload to the PEGIS staff. This is especially true if the request was for a hard copy data such as maps or plans. Preparing map using command-based Arc plot-UX would require at least a full working day for PEGIS staff.
Allocation of GIS Workstation to User
The HP workstations were favorites among users when they came to PEGIS for data creation and maintenance purposes. These workstations were equipped with 21″ monitors for pleasant viewing and larger display area. The addition of two HP workstations during the interim period had increased the total number of workstations to six at the Centre and applications developed for data creation and maintenance modules were customized according to the screen size of these workstations.
Limited Understanding on the Ability of GIS
Awareness and understanding on the ability of GIS were limited among government officers in the State although they knew the existence of PEGIS. Only a small number were aware of the facilities and services provided by PEGIS. Limited access to the PEGIS database and inadequate GIS workstations cum licenses were believed to be major factors for this problem. In addition, the Arc Info-UX software was not user-friendly. Any currently on-going tasks have to be stopped and postponed to a later time, subjected to the urgency of the request. Attending this request means additional workload for the PEGIS staff.
2000 – PRESENT: DEVELOPMENT OF PEGIS MAP BROWSER
In 1997, the Penang State Government began adopting the internet as part of its ICT development programs. Networking infrastructures and computer facilities were upgraded to utilize this technology. By the year 2000, almost every government department in the State was equipped with internet lines including the PEGIS Centre.
The Centre has identified the internet as part of the solutions to overcome issues and problems discussed above. Additional funding was requested and PEGIS had engaged a consultant to develop an internet map browser in 1998. Known as the PEGIS Map Browser, this web-based application was finally launched in mid 1999. Its main objective was to provide users from government agencies in Penang with a low cost GIS data access to the PEGIS database.
Features Of PEGIS Map Browser.
On the left side of the main page (Figure 1) are the login icons for the general public and government agencies to access the browser. For government agencies, a username and password are required for login purposes while general users can get into the browser by double-clicking the top icon.
On the right side of the page are guidelines and information regarding usage of the map browser while the center page displays information linked to these guidelines. Once logged in, the screen will display the map browser page as shown in Figure 2. On the left are layers of maps with square boxes for users to click to display the selected map. Selected maps are
presented in the center page while scale and land area are displayed at the bottom page. Menus on this page include: Print: This button will print maps displayed in the center page. A print window will appear requiring user to provide printing information such as map title, paper size and orientation, printer, etc.. Report: This button will display attributes of the object selected on the map. Parcel: Search for particular land parcel. Users are required to provide the district, county, and the parcel number. The land parcel will be displayed along with the surrounding parcels. General: Search for object such as schools, hospitals, roads, etc. User is required to select the name of the object. Info: displays the metadata of the selected map layers. Logout : quit out of the browser.
On the right side are buttons for controlling map size and scale (zooming in and out), shifting map, displaying map full view and stopping downloading process. Other features such as copying, buffering, measuring distance, sending messages are available by clicking the right button of the mouse while its pointer is within the map display area (https://pegismap. gov.my/penang/main.cfm, 2006).
Fig. 2: The Map Browser showing Land use of the Central District in
Print: This button will print maps displayed in the center page. A print window will appear requiring user to provide printing information such as map title, paper size and orientation, printer, etc..
Report: This button will display attributes of the object selected on the map.
Parcel: Search for particular land parcel. Users are required to provide the district, county, and the parcel number. The land parcel will be displayed along with the surrounding parcels.
General: Search for object such as schools, hospitals, roads, etc. User is required to select the name of the object.
Info: displays the metadata of the selected map layers.
Logout: quit out of the browser.
On the right side are buttons for controlling map size and scale (zooming in and out), shifting map, displaying map full view and stopping downloading process. Other features such as copying, buffering, measuring distance, sending messages are available by clicking the right button of the mouse while its pointer is within the map display area , 2006).
The development of PEGIS Map Browser has attracted many government agencies to become registered users of this service. At present, there are more than fifty registered government agencies utilizing this service over the internet with a daily average of 45 different users accessing concurrently.
There was a tremendous drop in the number of users coming to the Centre to access the PEGIS database or to request maps and plans.
Since most of the data creation was finally completed by the end of the interim period, updating and maintenance of these data as well as creation of new data are now managed by the PEGIS staff. Updated data are delivered to the Centre in digital forms while some still in hard copies will require additional digitizing.
Although the PEGIS Map Browser managed to provide solutions to most of the issues and problems discussed earlier, it failed to solve the problem of acquiring digital data over the internet. Service for acquisition of digital data is not available on the browser due to security and protection of digital copyright matters.
Users are still required to come to the Centre to accomplish this task even though the number of request for such task is small.
The implementation of PEGIS Map Browser has managed to effectively expedite dissemination of GIS data to various government agencies in Penang. The development of the PEGIS Map Browser is in line with the objective of the Penang State Government to
establish an electronic government
service portal known as the e-Services. This portal will link and serve all government agencies with web based applications developed by state agencies through online system such as Student Loan Payment, Low Cost Housing Application and the PEGIS Map Browser. The portal provides users with fast, accurate, transparent and friendly
applications that are delivered based on the concept of G2G (Government to Government) services.
For complete paper with list of references visit:
- Demers, Michael N., (2005). Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems, 3rd Ed. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc..
- ECS Consortium and Universiti Sains Malaysia (1992). The Penang GIS (PEGIS) Pilot Project: Inception Report.
- Hart, Tony (1994). Implementing GIS, presented at the GIS Seminar and Exhibition for Local Government, Selangor, Malaysia, 25 – 26 July 1994. , (accessed on July 2006)
- PEGIS Centre (2000). Anugerah Inovasi: PEGIS Map Browser. Unpublished report of the Penang State Secretariat Office.
- Rainis, Ruslan and Othman, Abdul Ghapar (1996). The Development of Statewide GIS: A Case Study of Penang GIS, proceedings of the Seminar on Information Technology, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia, 23 – 24 September 1996.
- Toh Kin Woon (2005). Macro-Economic Performance and Challenges, presented at the Penang Forum: A Review of the 2nd Penang Strategic Development Plan, Penang, Malaysia, 21 – 23 November 2005