The GIS analyst
The coordinator of the GIS (Geographic Information System) South Tyrolean Competence Centre has been involved in geodata as long as anyone can remember. Right at the beginning of geographic information systems, a good 26 years ago, Ivo Planötscher began working with GIS. He says he always had a very hands-on training. After concluding an M.A.in Advanced Studies in Geographic Information Systems at the University of Salzburg, he is now responsible for developing a geodata infrastructure of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano in line with EU directives.
What exactly is the GIS Competence centre and what do you do?
The GIS Competence Centre of the provincial IT Department is an agglomerate of collaborators from the IT departments of the Province of Bolzano and those of the South Tyrolean IT Company (S.I.AG). Our name says it all: we work with geodata, i.e. information systems which collect, modify, organise, analyse and present geographic data. Our clients include the departments of the provincial government of Bolzano as well as municipalities and the municipality Consortium of South Tyrol. The role of the Competence Centre is to help our clients, who produce geodata, or who may have needs related to geography in general.
Can you share an example?
In the late ‘80s we started digitalising the urban land-use plans of South Tyrolean municipalities: from paper to digital information. At the time, we worked with other companies and developed a software which supported this digitalising process. Nowadays all municipalities in South Tyrol have a digital urban land-use plan. These digital urban land-use plans have been stored in the central server of the provincial government and provide a great amount of information. Everyone has access to these data using the GeoBrowser.
You are also in charge of the realisation of the INSPIRE geodata infrastructure of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, South Tyrol. What is that all about?
The INSPIRE Directive is a EU guideline which states the Province have to produce specific results within a set amount of time. We have to produce not only websites, but rather to provide online services (and this concept is in line with what Open Data is all about), that are open to use by the internet community. It is a matter of providing high standardized services that produce public information used by companies for their production process. A good example are the tourism web services we have developed.
You are the go-to-man when it comes to GIS. Could you tell us something about the OpenGISData.eu project?
The OpenGISData.eu project strongly relies on Open Data. The project tries to raise a sense of awareness in South Tyrol that all collected and managed data by public administration should belong to taxpayers, as in the first place they piad for them. Let's not forget that 80% of the costs incurred when managing a territorial information systems relate to the collection and management of data and not by the purchase or running of machines and software.
What are the advantages of Open Data?
Clearly in the dissemination of these expensive data. It's just not conceivable that only a select few in the departments of the provincial government have access to these data. Of course, those data are majorly used for administrative purposes but - and this is what the EU stipulates - they should be passed on to third parties in an intelligible and useable form. To me, the biggest advantage of Open Data is that this huge treasure of information is to be given to companies and individuals in the best possible form for them to use.
What would you like to see in the future for South Tyrol and Open Data?
I would like for all public administration in South Tyrol to standardise their information. In this way we would standardise all data from all municipalities, the municipality Consortium, the Eurac Research Centre, the Free University of Bolzano, and all departments of public administration, making them easy to use citizens and companies.