NBN Co's GIS data doldrums

By GovTechReview Staff
Friday, 03 May, 2013

Should it ever be completed, the National Broadband Network will connect every dwelling in Australia, so it is critical that the organisation tasked building it knows where every one of those dwelling are. 
NBN Co’s chief technology officer Gary McLaren says accurate geographic information is essential to ensuring that the right infrastructure is deployed to adequately service all addresses. Poor information can lead to errors in the number of fibres run into a street, or how the fixed wireless network is configured. Getting the planning right is also critical to ensure that NBN Co it is accurately budgeting the construction phase. The NBN Co relies on spatial data from PSMA Australia, which in turn gathers data from sources including governments, the Australian Electoral Commission and Australia Post.NBNCo-GaryMcLaren McLaren says that while the accuracy is as high as 95 per cent for metropolitan areas, the error rate can rise to 30 per cent in CBDs and regional areas. “In certain areas it makes our work more difficult, and we have to spend more time double-checking and triple–checking exactly what we need to do,” McLaren says. “The data set might say there is a town with 150 people, but when you look it up on Google there’s nothing there.” As a result the NBN Co has implemented measures to remove duplicate addresses and manage aliases. It makes extensive use of Google and its Street View application for crosschecking. “The productivity for design is greatly enhanced by some of these tools,” McLaren says. “Trying to build this network 30 or 40 years ago would have taken a lot longer and a lot more people. It’s a great tool to be able to crosscheck the data.” NBN Co is also using a tool call spatialNET from Australian company SPATIALinfo Info to record all of its plans and designs, and has engaged another Australian company, advanced algorithm specialists Biarri, to optimise the network design. – Brad Howarth 
This case study originally ran as part of the Democracy Meets GIS feature from the June/July 2012 issue of Government Technology Review.
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