Statistics New Zealand’s 1996 demographic data is now available, albeit in a somewhat restricted form, on the Internet via a map-based interface provided by Eagle Technology Group.
Using geographic information system (GIS) technology combined with Java applets, Eagle has created a Web site called GeoStats where punters can select an area of interest — be it a regional or local council — and view statistics such as percentage of change in population from 1991 to 1996 or the total number of occupied dwellings for 1996. Users can download the data through their browser. There is no charge for this data.
More specialised data at the area unit and meshblock level will be provided for sale when it is released by Statistics in the upcoming months. Pricing has not been set.
Although the site itself could be a bit confusing to someone without experience in either desktop mapping or a background in geo-demographic analysis, it represents a giant step in both the digital distribution of geographic data and the provision of low-cost spatial processing at the desktop level.
The technology behind the site is Map-Objects Internet Map Server, developed by Environmental Systems Research Institute of California, the people who make the Arc/Info and ArcView suite of GIS software. The data is stored separately in ESRI’s spatial database engine (SDE) for performance purposes. Users enter their data selection via a map browser and a request is sent to the spatial server. The server then retrieves the data and sends it back to the browser in a map format.
Dave Horry, GIS business unit manager at Eagle, says the site represents a steady progression of GIS capabilities. “We have been working for years trying to make GIS technology and data available to the general public without having it cost an arm and a leg,” he says. “The only limitation is the availability of data, and we are committed to providing more as it becomes available.”
The GeoStats site is accesssible from the EagleNet Web page at http://www.eaglenet.co.nz.