“We do not compete with the private sector”

“We do not compete with the private sector”

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Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) is responsible for providing New Zealand’s authoritative land and seabed information. Among its major functions are building and maintaining the geodetic system, providing cadastral survey products and services via Internet and its five Processing Centres, national topographic mapping at 1:50,000 to 1:4,000,000 scales, and monitoring property valuations. Brendan Boyle
Brendan Boyle
Chief Executive
Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) is responsible for providing New Zealand’s authoritative land and seabed information. Among its major functions are building and maintaining the geodetic system, providing cadastral survey products and services via Internet and its five Processing Centres, national topographic mapping at 1:50,000 to 1:4,000,000 scales, and monitoring property valuations. LINZ is also the national hydrographic authority and provides administrative support to the NZ Geographic Board, chaired by LINZ’s Surveyor- General. Prior to his appointment as Chief Executive of LINZ, Brendan Boyle was was the inaugural Director of the e-Government Unit at the State Services Commission. He is a Law Graduate and an MBA from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Talking with GIS Development he lays emphasis on “cheap data availabity” as one of the essentialities for booming geospatial industry.

Q. Could your share your thoughts on labelling GIS as one of the “Disruptive Technologies”?
At recently held Cambridge Conference, while talking of GIS as Disruptive Technology, I tried to draw parallels between the history of disruptive technologies that we have seen in other industries as software, finance, retail and, ask the question that “what does it mean for the current geospatial market?”. We have seen new entrants coming to the market with different products and services proving to be disruptive to the incumbents.

Some of them are quite obvious; we have got open source movement, development in GPS technologies, companies coming in the market from the IT mainstream (Google, Microsoft, PB), who have started processing geospatial data. We have seen far greater use of geospatial data in the government sector and more pressures for the availability of the government geospatial information in the most cost-effective manner possible. For the government of New Zealand this has been particularly appropriate since we have been trying to open up and make available more data. We have been making information/data available electronically at the cost of dissemination and extraction. Other jurisdictions operate on other business models. The internet is clearly a disruptive new channel and will be the major source of data provision electronically. There is convergence being seen around – wireless, mobile, location based services – all utilising geospatial data and this is opening up new markets and offering quite different products and services that the private sector is best equipped and positioned to innovate around, subject to data being available at a reasonable cost.

Q. Where does GIS stand as compared to indus- tries that have high market volumes?
We are producing a lot of geospatial data from converting the paper data into the electronic form; once we have data in e-form, this opens up tremendous opportunities for utilising the information. The innovative mix-n-match of the sourced data with other information in order to create new products and services is exciting. There are estimates that 80 per cent of the data that government holds has some geospatial flavour. If that is true we are going to see far more products and services developed, which utilise the data in some manner.

At the moment this may appear small, but with the internet and with government data being made available more and more and at cheaper rates, this will lead to the development of innovative techniques and applications ultimately benefiting the users. Non-traditional GIS companies see the trends and are coming in. This is also very good for the governments because there will be greater choice of providers together with increased choice of channels.

Q. Traditionally govern- ments have been hold- ing data. Do you think eco- nomic reasons will now make them opening up the data availability?
I can only see information freeing up from the existing status quo. Different governments are at different stages and many are facing the issue. I can only comment with authority on what we do in New Zealand. We are in favour of availability of data as cheaply as possible because we are not in the business of competing with the private sector for the provision of geospatial information. I can see more and more pressure coming on governments to free up data.

We are already seeing such developments in Australia and UK and I think this will only increase. It will not be ‘free’ but more likely at cost of extraction and not at a cost derived to effectively tax users.

This is also consistent with the idea of utilising Creative Commons Licences that some governments are exploring.

Q. What primarily was the New Zeland (NZ) government’s reason to make data available to public?
First, our policy is that government should not compete with the private sector in the same market. The second element is that even if the government was forgoing some revenues by making this information available, the counter benefit is that making the data available and allowing the industry to innovate stimulates economic activity thereby creating value. So the general theory is that overall economic benefit is in favour of opening up of data.

Q. Could you briefly outline the evolution of Landon- line?
Landonline was initiated in 1997 and designed with a vision of creating a fully integrated electronic survey and land titling system. Following conversion of survey plans and land titles from paper to image and structured data, the system went “live” in 2002. Now in 2007 we have electronic lodgement and automatic registration of approximately 75% of all land titles transactions and 100% lodgement of all cadastral survey datasets (survey plans). By late 2008, 100% of titles transactions will be lodged via Landonline. It has been an enormous multi-year programme with significant elements of change experienced by staff and customers. Soon paper will be but a distant memory!

Q. What suggestion do you have for the govern- ments embarking on ‘e’ land administration programmes?
You have to have a clear and consistent policy and regulatory environment. You must have structural elements in place – standards, laws and systems. If you have that in place at the national level, you are best placed to move ahead with bringing in the ‘e’ component to the system. If you want to have surveying and land titling go hand in hand then you may also need to think structurally. I would summarise key elements as

  • Right Regulatory model
  • Clear Policy
  • Develop a strategy for information on a national basis
  • Work closely with the stakeholders and the customers during the design of the system
  • Pick really good partners who also aid in providing the latest technological updates and who can deliver on time and within budget
  • Scour the world and learn from other jurisdictions – what works well and what has not.