An introduction to GeoHive, the state’s Geospatial Data Hub, and the benefits it delivers for public service bodies, businesses and citizens.

Ireland is rich in geospatial data. Within and beyond the public sector, there is a vast amount of information relating to specific locations in the country, covering virtually everything from where to find services for children to where land is available for housing development and where coastal erosion is evident. Now it is even easier for public service bodies, businesses and citizens to find this geospatial data, explore it and use it to better understand all aspects of life in Ireland.

An online platform for sharing geospatial data that was developed by Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) has now been formally adopted by the Irish government as the state’s Geospatial Data Hub. Called GeoHive, the platform has been enhanced and extended by OSi to fulfil the key role envisioned by government and deliver added value for the public sector. With new services, new features and new content, GeoHive aims to make all of Ireland’s geospatial data accessible, all in one place.

Authoritative data to support evidence-led decision making

GeoHive provides unprecedented, free access to spatial data by bringing together datasets, web services and maps from across the entire public sector in Ireland, and making everything available via one online portal. It is easy to find relevant data by zooming into an interactive map, searching in a data catalogue or exploring the resources section, which includes apps, StoryMaps and dashboards. Anyone can use the geospatial data on GeoHive to help them achieve better, data-driven outcomes and make well-informed decisions based on up-to-date evidence. Public sector organisations can more easily reuse the data and services created and maintained by other public sector bodies, reducing duplicated effort, minimising administration time and improving the cost efficiency of public services.

While the public sector is a key stakeholder for GeoHive, the platform is not exclusively for the use of public service bodies. Citizens and commercial organisations too can benefit from the ability to use GeoHive to find information more easily about the places where they live, work and invest. OSi has, for example, published two new dashboards on GeoHive, called the National Imagery Dashboard and the National Historic Maps Dashboard, that allow users to see how areas have developed over time and better understand changes in their localities.

Successful delivery of government strategy

GeoHive delivers on the government’s Public Service Data Strategy by providing an online platform to enable “discovery, evaluation and access to Government geospatial data.” By providing a free, secure and easy-to-use technology platform for sharing data, GeoHive is expected to encourage public service bodies to “catalogue and share geospatial datasets”, which is another key goal of the strategy. GeoHive will also help to promote the use of best practice data management methodologies and, in doing so, help the government to achieve its overarching aim to “optimise the state’s geospatial data and related resources.”

The GeoHive platform is very much built around a federated approach to data sharing. Each public service body still owns and maintains its data, its content and its web services; organisations can simply use the GeoHive platform to make these resources more accessible to a wider number of users. In this way, GeoHive supports the principles of the Government’s ICT Strategy by enabling public service bodies to “build to share”, think “digital first” and use “data as an enabler” for more innovative uses of data within government. It helps to “improve governance” by ensuring that all public bodies have the same approach to sharing geospatial data and will inevitably “increase capability” in the public sector by making better data available to everyone.

Continuous development driven by stakeholders

GeoHive has evolved to become the state’s Geospatial Data Hub with the support of public sector stakeholders. Most recently, representatives from over twenty public service bodies took part in a beta review process, providing feedback in a structured questionnaire – and much of this feedback is now being incorporated into the platform’s ongoing development roadmap.

OSi built GeoHive using Esri’s ArcGIS Hub as the underlying technical platform and it plans to continue to enhance the capabilities of GeoHive by harnessing the latest ArcGIS features. For example, OSi is currently developing new functionality to allow groups of users to share data and content on GeoHive. It is worth pointing out that GeoHive doesn’t just feature OSi mapping and viewers; GeoHive provides access to custom and open source mapping solutions developed and used by other government agencies. The platform pulls together varied data resources from hundreds of sources, making it the true hub for all geospatial data in Ireland.

Better, more efficient public services

OSi is now urging all public service bodies to share their data and content via the GeoHive platform, so that others can benefit from it. Equally, OSi is encouraging public sector organisations to look to see what data other organisations are sharing on GeoHive and consider how they can benefit from using this added intelligence. So much more value can be delivered for the public, if local and central government organisations alike reuse existing data, gain insight from available evidence and collaborate to deliver the best public services, as efficiently as possible.

GeoHive is already widely used. Indeed, at the height of the coronavirus crisis, GeoHive hosted the nation’s COVID-19 data hub, a platform that made up-to-date information available about the number of cases and where they were occurring. In one ten-month period, GeoHive handled over 150 million views for the COVID-19 data hub alone. This is impressive enough, but OSi expects the use of GeoHive to increase exponentially now that it has been enhanced, extended and officially adopted as the Irish government’s Geospatial Data Hub. OSi is proud of the role it has played in creating this versatile data sharing platform and looks forward to seeing it develop as the go-to place for all geospatial data and information services in Ireland.

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