National Map positions Australia on the Digital Earth

Thursday, 10 July 2014 12:00 AM

SIBA applauds the Department of Communication for their vision and delivery of the initial National Map prototype. National Map is a digital earth inspired open source/ open data collaboration that may induce a profound and positive impact on spatial industry innovation, and open-data sharing by Government. The National Map has to date been a development between the Commonwealth’s Department of Communications, SIBA member NICTA and Geoscience Australia. National Map is being formally launched today at GovHack.
The rationale of the Department of Communications for the NationalMap initiative is to:
  • Provide easy access to authoritative and other spatial data to government, business and public
  • Facilitate the opening of data by federal, state and local government bodies
  • Provide an open framework of geospatial data services that supports commercial and community innovation
National Map is based upon an open source technology called Cesium. This platform underpins the National Map, and allows both the not-for-profit and for-profit sectors to use and build on open Government data.  The concept is closely aligned to the Digital Earth vision for an open and innovative spatial commons.

The first iterations of this will be the network created by the linkages of with the FIND geospatial online catalogue, the National Map exploitation tool and two major data infrastructures, the Foundation Spatial Data Framework and the National Environmental Infrastructure Initiative.

It was this policy of promoting Ministry to Ministry networked infrastructures that delivered an additional 2,300 datasets to in January 2014 from only one additional Government agency. The Department of Communications is currently taking this test case to other Departments to replicate that success.
  1. Authoritative data services - Eg Administrative boundaries, place names
  2. Multi-jurisdiction - Live data services for commonwealth, states, local government
  3. Multi-custodian - Live data services from different agencies - GA, ABS, BoM, state agencies
  4. Multi-vendor (at back end) - ESRI’s ArcGIS, Google Maps Engine, open source software (eg Geoserver)
  5. Multi-format - OGC-compliant data services, KML, GeoJSON, CSV, etc
  6. Open framework - All data sets and services available for other compatible front-ends
  7. Open source - Open source front-end; back-end data services can use open source
  8. Easy access to the data set/service itself from the National Map UI - Map provides visualisation but all data can be directly accessed too
  9. Features not available in most current globes - Timeline, subsurface, etc
  10. Platform for commercial, community and agency innovation - Interfaces to support value-add services (eg analytics, visualisation, sharing, printing)

The National Map is designed to:
  • Provide easy access to authoritative and other spatial data to government, business and the public
  • Facilitate the opening of data by federal, state and local government bodies
  • Provide an open framework of geospatial data services that supports commercial and community innovation
Current data services include:
  • Broadband (Department of Communications): Eg broadband quality and availability across Australia
  • Land (Geoscience Australia): Eg Gravity, land cover, magnetic image, surface geology, earthquake hazard
  • Surface water (Geoscience Australia): Eg streams and rivers, catchments, estuaries, boreholes
  • Ground water (Bureau of Meteorology’s Geofabric): Eg aquifers, water table salinity
  • Elevation (Geoscience Australia): Eg contours, flow direction
  • Terrain (Geoscience Australia): Eg caves, cliffs
  • Vegetation (Geoscience Australia): Eg native vegetation areas
  • Habitation (Geoscience Australia): Eg populated places, builtup areas
  • Transport (Geoscience Australia): Eg roads, railways, airports, foot tracks
  • Infrastructure (Geoscience Australia): Eg waste management facilities, mine areas
  • Utilities (Geoscience Australia): Eg pipelines
  • Boundaries (Australian Bureay of Statistics): Eg postcode regions, local government, electoral
  • Lots of other data sets and services via
  • More coming!
NICTA (National ICT Australia) is a SIBA member and Australia's largest Information and Communication Technology Centre of Excellence. NICTA has been using Cesium on a growing number of initiatives involving web-based 3D geospatial visualization. The Subspace project at NICTA is building functionality into Cesium to support these initiatives. NICTA project areas using Cesium include:
  • environmental monitoring and analysis;
  •  transport and infrastructure modelling, simulation and optimisation; and
  • consumer broadband applications.

NICTA is contributing functionality back to the core Cesium codebase where this would be useful for National Map and other applications. This includes functionality in areas such as tile map services, terrain handling, and data visualization.

Further information will be announced by Drew Clarke, Secretary of the Department of Communications when he and Helen Owens will address SIBA members at the HERE sponsored SIBA Breakfast being held in Brisbane on the 29th July.  NICTA leads in the cesium and NationalMap initiative will now also be joining this breakfast and following workshops.

How to use the National Map?
Just go to and press on the "Data" button (below the search entry bar) and then select "Data Sets". This will show you a list of topics of data available. Select a topic to show the data sets then check the box next to a data set to display the data set. The data you will see is, in most cases, coming directly from a government agency who is providing the data (such as Geoscience Australia or the Bureau of Meteorology). Pressing on the name of the data set will zoom the map to the area of the data (or the whole of Australia if it covers the whole country). When a data set is loaded on the map, you can usually click/press on the map to find out more information about that point in the data set (for example, for the data set "Railways", you can click on a railway line and find out how about it - for boundary data, you can press inside the boundary to find out what region it is).
Use NationalMap to see and get available data sets and services
Pressing on "info" next to the name of a data set will show you more info about a data set (including usage conditions) and will show you how to download it for use with other applications or to buidl your own application.


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