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The power of the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to transform lives and the way the City of Johannesburg uses the technology to improve its services came under sharp focus on GIS Open Day earlier this week.

Scores of students, community members and industry stakeholders marked the day at the Metro Centre in Braamfontein on Wednesday November 19.

Held on the third Wednesday of November every year since 1999, the day also provides a platform for the technology’s users to demonstrate real life applications making a difference in society.
Marcelle Hattingh, the City’s Director of Corporate Geo-Informatics, said the open day gave visitors the opportunity to gain an overall perspective of the importance and value of GIS technology.

“GIS is the only tool that integrates information from various sources in multiple format types and layers so it can be compared. Using GIS technology enables the City to make integrated scientific decisions and allocate resources effectively,” said Hattingh.

Hattingh said her department was actively improving its data to ensure that future billing, zoning and other GIS-related challenges are minimised. 
Such projects to improve data quality include street number verifications, active address verifications, conversion checks from the Venus system to SAP system, and registered properties without ownership.

“We are proud of the continuous improvement of property information as reflected in the drastic reduction of LIS (land information system) versus SAP (billing system) mismatches. We have monthly validation to ensure the City is completely covered with registered properties as only registered properties can be billed. Constant data quality checks and verifications ensure the property value chain feeds into the revenue value chain,” said Hattingh.

She explained that it was important to have quality detailed data on properties and their history or life cycle, for example, when and how a property was sub-divided, as such detail was important for development planning.

Hattingh and her team took visitors on guided tours, explaining the processes, checks and balances as well as displaying the enormous potential of the GIS system as an inclusive information programme able to map and inform of societal needs such as healthcare, community development and development planning. “We are trying to create a comprehensive information network between the City’s departments, MOEs and members of the public by gathering all the collected data so in future we will be able to map service requirements and allocate resources in an informed way,” said Hattingh.

The City is also using the GIS technology at its Integrated Operations Centre to map safety and security issues. Hattingh explained that by linking to the citywide CCTV cameras and using the collected data, the City is able to make better informed decisions about needs and future planning. This initiative is in support of the Smart City concept, which seeks to use technology to enhance performance whilst reducing costs.

A Smart City is defined as one that actively engages its citizens and is able to easily adapt and respond to change.