How geospatial information can transform decision making in the Irish public sector

Ireland’s first ever National Mapping Agreement (NMA) is here and it’s a big deal for the public sector. Why? Because it makes Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) products, which come in the form of maps, aerial photography and spatial data, freely available to all public bodies.

GIS Data 1

OSi’s products, which can be collectively referred to as GI (geospatial information), can be used in all manner of ways to vastly improve the delivery of Ireland’s public services. Similar geospatial products, made available by the UK’s mapping agreements, are already improving the delivery of public services in Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. In these regions, GI has been used to determine the optimum locations for resettling Syrian refugees in Northern Ireland, to save £400k per year by redesigning waste collection routes in London, to improve ambulance dispatch on the Isle of Wight, and to guide wind farm development in Scotland. (For more real world examples of how UK public sector bodies are using GI, take a look at this article.)

GI is saving millions for economies worldwide

GI is a powerful resource for governments around the world and there are several reports documenting its economic value.


In a report by ACIL Tasman, an Australian market research company, the spatial information industry and its accumulated impacts are valued at between $6.43 billion (0.6%) and $12.57 billion (1.2%) to Australia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The report also points out the biosecurity, environment and social benefits of GI, giving an example where spatial information played a major role in managing the spread of equine influenza virus in Australia in 2007. It’s stated that “the contribution of spatial information to implementing biosecurity programs could be in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars.”


The Canadian government reported that “geospatial technologies contribute some $21 billion of value to Canada’s GDP (1.1%), and generate approximately 19,000 jobs in Canada’s economy.” They also note that GI has enormous social and environmental benefits, including “improved resource stewardship, better response to disease outbreaks, speedier deployment of first responders in emergency situations, and coordinated and timely management of physical infrastructure.”


An independent research organisation, known as Indecon, assessed the economic value of the geospatial industry in Ireland and reported that geospatial data contributes almost €70 million in terms of gross added value to the Irish economy every year and has an economy-wide impact of €126.4 million.

New Zealand

A report about spatial information in the New Zealand economy states that “in 2008, the use and reuse of spatial information is estimated to have added $1.2 billion in productivity-related benefits to the New Zealand economy”, which is equivalent to slightly more than 0.6% of GDP, and that “other (non-productivity) benefits linked to the increasing use of spatial information are probably worth a multiple of this”.

United States

A report by Boston Consulting Group estimated that the geospatial services industry generates annual revenues of $75 billion and provides jobs for 500,000 people. They state that “together, geospatial services companies drive $1.6 trillion in revenues and $1.4 trillion in cost savings throughout the U.S. economy.

So how can GI benefit decision making in the Irish public sector?

Eligible bodies and organisations who join the NMA and leverage OSi’s geospatial data for their decision making will be empowered to do the following:

  1. Make informed decisions

Whether it’s to optimise Garda beat patrols, to reduce journey times for ambulances, to choose the best location for a new school, or to assess how resources should be deployed in disadvantaged areas, GI has the power to enrich decision making across the entire public sector. All of the data being released under the NMA is the most accurate, up-to-date version, so public bodies can depend on it to be reliable.

  1. Make faster decisions

The mapping software that is used to analyse spatial data, known as GIS (Geographical Information Systems), allows users to analyse data very quickly. Faster data analysis leads to faster decision-making.

  1. Make cost-effective decisions

Using the data leads to cost savings because it aids a more efficient delivery of public services, and accessing the data itself is free at the point of use because the NMA is centrally-funded.

  1. Visualise complex information

Viewing data in a spatial format allows you to gain a clearer picture of the variables that affect your decision. For example, if you’re scouting potential locations for a new service, you can instantly portray the variables that might affect this service (e.g. population, transport networks, schools etc.) on a map.

  1. Identify patterns & trends

The power of GI doesn’t just lie with displaying items on a map. You can use it identify patterns and trends (e.g. crime trends), and model ‘what-if’ scenarios (e.g. potential flooding). You can also ‘layer’ OSi’s data with other datasets that you may have and start understanding the relationships between variables.

  1. Involve non-experts

Spatial analysis allows complex information to be presented in such a way that non-experts can visualise and understand it. This makes it easier to involve others in the decision-making process (e.g. the output could be used during public consultations).

  1. Collaborate with other public bodies

Decisions can be further enriched with data analysis from other public bodies. Everyone who joins the NMA gets access to the same data so when it comes to collaboration, there’s no fear of incompatibilities or inconsistencies.

Ultimately, all of this means that Irish public services can now be delivered in a more targeted, efficient, cost-effective and timely manner.

Are you eligible to join the NMA?

To find out if your organisation is eligible to access OSi data and support under the NMA, visit the National Mapping Agreement page and fill out the form.

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