The tail wags the dog in government ICT

Tauranga District Council, The National Library, GNS Science and the DIA are finalists in the Use of ICT in Government category

If he had a tail, then John Payne, animal control manager of Tauranga District Council, would be wagging it with delight at the National Dog Database.

The database is a finalist in the Computerworld Excellence Awards category for Excellence in the Use of ICT in Government; along with the National Library of New Zealand’s Web Curator tool, the GeoNet project from GeoNet Science and the Department of Internal Affairs’ Electronic Monitoring System.

In addition to chipping New Zealand’s 500,000 canine companions, the National Dog Database also links their details nationwide across 73 territorial authorities. Updated daily, the system allows animal control officers to search all dog registration, classification and infringement data in New Zealand.

The database, explains Peter Burke, manager, strategic development and support for the Department of Internal Affairs, includes a data collection subsystem that uploads and validates core dog control information from the local authorities, a web-based search engine that allows users to search the national database and a de-duplication engine that allows users to identify owners and dogs in more than one council area.

Developed with the company Equinox, challenges included it being a “greenfields project” and working with 73 diverse local bodies.

However, despite national controversy over micro-chipping, animal control officers are happy with the system, with Burke’s submission featuring much positive feedback.

Tauranga’s Payne says the database contains “many good things”. These include the database showing changes nationally, so if someone moves from one area to another the details can easily be updated for both councils from a single entry.

“This is a huge saving for us as no property visits are needed. All the interaction is between the councils,” Payne told Computerworld.

Where owners have dogs that have committed offences, owners tend to move elsewhere, but the database helps the new council identify offending dogs.

In cases where dogs are unchipped, Payne adds, if they are found on the street and put in a pound, they then must be chipped before they are released to the owner. Chipping might have been controversial, he says, but by being able to identify details from a chip, he was able to re-unite six lost dogs with their owners over Christmas.

The National Library’s Web Curator Tool supports the selection, harvesting and quality assessment of online material.

“It lets librarians collect websites the same as they collect books so our important digital heritage can be preserved,” says National Library technical analyst Gordon Paynter.

The new tool, developed with the British Library for $379,000, uses open source software and was written in Java and designed to run in Apache Tomcat. It has a flexible architecture designed for use across multiple operating systems.

National Library e-publications selector Susanna Joe says the new tool integrates with various systems so whatever is harvested can be shared easily, rather than having to be downloaded onto individual desktops.

“Harvesting is structured, tidier, simpler. It’s a massive improvement,” she says.

Should Wellington ever experience ‘the big one’, the GNS Science GeoNet Project would monitor the earthquake and advise people how to respond. Developed with the Earthquake Commission, GeoNet also assesses volcanic movements, landslides and is working on a tsunami warning system.

It uses free and open source software and is designed to integrate with many systems to allow the widespread dispersal of information. Geoff Clitheroe, GNS Science systems development manager, says his ten-year project uses cutting edge web-based and database orientated technology to deliver information to the public.

Web hosting is done internally, but web servers are based in California in case “Wellington is taken out”.

User Dr John Townend, of Victoria University Wellington, says GeoNet allows seismic and GPS data to feed into the same system, helping his studies into what causes earthquakes and landslips and better determine where they happen.

The Department of Internal Affairs has a second finalist in this year’s awards with the Electronic Monitoring System (EMS), which was also a finalist in the Most Successful Project Implementation category (reported 18 June) and for Overall Excellence.

The seven year, $42 million project features an IP-based wide area network linking New Zealand’s 20,000 gaming machines across 16,000 pubs and clubs.

Peter Burke, manager, strategic development and support, regulation and compliance, says the project was a compliance measure helping the government monitor the country’s pokie machines to ensure they paid out fairly and appropriate duties were paid.

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