Leveraging geospatial tech to improve Singapore's public services

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At the Singapore Esri Conference 2015, GIS experts and users shared their perspectives on how Geographic Information System (GIS) technologies are helping them solve social, economic, business and environmental challenges of the day.

Today, GIS smart mapping technology is widely used across Singapore’s government agencies to optimise operations, improve public services and harness the collective wisdom of citizens. At the conference, various agencies such as the Municipal Services Office (MSO), SingHealth and Land Transport Authority (LTA) shared how they leveraged on geospatial analytics to gain insights and improve the delivery of public services.

Integrating Datasets with Smart Maps

The explosion of the digital age has created vast, unmanageable reservoirs of information. Managing multiple data sets is a challenge as the information is often kept in silos within different systems, stored in inconsistent formats and hosted across a mix of platforms.

Mansour Raad, Senior Software Architect at Esri, explained how GIS technology can be used to integrate data from multiple systems, creating a dynamic and interactive map-based view of information. This paves the way for geospatial analytics, translating complex datasets into the language of smart maps and bringing to life static data to reveal new opportunities and solutions.

“Beyond mapping and visualisation of your data, GIS technology is also about sophisticated spatial analytics that allows organisations to view data form an entirely different perspective,” said Raad. “By doing so, organisations can unearth relationships, patterns and trends that would otherwise remain buried when the same data is presented in tables or spreadsheets.”

GIS for the Public Sector

“A modern government needs a modern GIS. It’s about a web GIS platform, it means being able to take all the information and dynamics and integrate it with geography. It’s a framework that not only makes cities smarter, it is also a framework that allows city officials to be more responsive to what citizens want and need,” said Jack Dangermond, Founder and President of Esri.

Thomas Pramotedham, CEO of Esri Singapore, highlighted the example of SG-Space, a nationwide GIS platform which laid the foundation for government agencies to share and use geospatial data.

“SG-Space has helped unlock the potential of public sector geospatial data, to be shared by public agencies, communities and businesses. It has laid the foundation for a collaborative culture, not just among the government agencies but throughout the entire community, and highlighted the role that geospatial science and technology has to play in making effective policies and decision making,” said Pramotedham.

Multi-agency Platform for Municipal Feedback

Earlier this year, the Municipal Services Office (MSO) launched a mobile app named OneService, a one-stop portal for members of the public to send their feedback on municipal issues in Singapore. With OneService, users can take photos with their smart device, geotag the location and send feedback on any municipal issues they encounter. The app will automatically route each feedback to the relevant agency so that more timely service and response can be provided.

About 53,000 cases of municipal feedback are received each month across agencies. Having established an integrated platform and protocol, agencies have improved their average response time from 8 working days to 6.5 working days. At a national level, the geospatial data allows MSO to have a more complete picture of the state of municipal services on the ground, while geospatial analytics provide further insights into municipal issues.

“Geospatial analytics and visualisation helps us identify geographic frames, patterns and clusters of municipal issues. By mapping issues to administrative boundaries , we can quickly identify hotspots, and behaviour where a particular type of issue is predominant, hence require a closer look and a deeper analysis to understand  infrastructure gaps,” said Anupam Mukherjee, Senior IT Consultant at MSO.

Optimised Ambulance Deployment

In the medical sector, SingHealth utilises GIS analytics to improve Singapore’s national medical emergency service. Response time is a key objective of any EMS system, and for cases of trauma and cardiac arrest, any delay can result in the worsening of the patient’s condition.

Sean Lam, Manager of Health Services Research at SingHealth, explained how his team employed geospatial analytics to optimise the deployment of the ambulance fleet. Analysing the spatial and temporal distribution of ambulance calls, they found that medical emergency events such as cardiac arrests follow non-random patterns, and are related to factors such as demographics and movement patterns. A system of dynamic ambulance deployment was employed to anticipate demand across different times of the day.

“We have to leverage on geospatial and temporal fluctuations of EMS call patterns to better deploy and site the ambulances, to preposition them In anticipation of where the demand will occur over different times of the day, different times of the week,” explained Lam. With an optimised deployment system, the average response time of the ambulances was improved by 10%.

Public Bus Transport Analytics

Singapore faces the challenge of providing transport for a population of 5.5 million people, poised to grow to 6.9 million by 2030. To meet the increasing transport demand, a $1.1 billion bus service enhancement program was launched to increase bus capacity and address overcrowding on buses.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) had to decide how best to inject an additional fleet of 1000 buses into its existing bus service network. Using GIS analytics, LTA identified several hotspots that needed attention - bus routes with high volumes, instances of bus bunching, and particular bus stops which were persistently crowded.

“After identifying these hotspots, we injected the buses accordingly. We tracked the outcomes, and the number of hotspots began to reduce over time. We also used data analytics to identify particular supply and demand mismatch, and deployed resources according to this demand,” said Dr Tracy Huang, Data Scientist at LTA.

“We did our surveys and found a 90% decrease in bus crowdedness. Nine in ten commuters were satisfied with our service, there was a reduction in average waiting time, and we managed to inject 450 buses two years ahead of schedule,” said Huang.