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Penang This Month

  • E BANNER FUN RUN  945 X 300DPI 01
    USM Campus Fun Run 2015
      Date  :10th October, 2015
    Registration Time  :6:30am – 9:00am
                                             Flag Off Venue  :USM Stadium, USM Main Campus, Penang
    Registration fees  :Students (RM 20) & Non-Students (RM 30)
    For more information about the run, and to download the registration form, please visit

Pembangunan GIS Jabatan Perancang Bandar dan Desa Negeri Pulau Pinang

Autodesk National Geospatial Conference: Geospatial Data Sharing in Government - Penang JPBD GeoPortal
This past week Precision Design Solution (M) SDN BHD based in Kuala Lumpur hosted an Autodesk National Geospatial Conference in Penang which attracted major players in the Malaysian telecommunications, oil and gas, power, water, government, and transportation sectors.

PEGIS Map Browser

I already knew something about geospatial in the Penang State Government because in 2006 I attended MapAsia in Bangkok and I had the opportunity to hear a presentation about a web-based system called PEGIS that really impressed me because it represented an evolution of an expensive, complex GIS requiring high end work stations and experts and focussed on producing printed maps to a modern web-based geospatial server that anyone with a web browser could use for accessing geospatial services. It has meant that the number of users who have access to geospatial data was broadened, the cost of providing access to geospatial data was reduced, and a foundation was built for open government, for providing transparent access to land data and land management processes. I was so impressed that I blogged about it.

JPBD GeoPortal
This week I had the opportunity to hear about another web-based system developed by the Department of Town and Country Planning (JPBD) of the State of Penang, called JPBD GeoPortal. The presentation was given by Rossli bin Haron, responsible for GIS applications in the Penang JPBD..

There are several unique aspects of the JPBD GeoPortal that dramatically broaden access to geospatial data in the State of Penang. First of all the JPBD GeoPortal is designed to share geospatial data not only among JPBD's 60 internal users as well as other government agencies, but also with the general public. The opening screen of the JPBD web site provides five options, one is for the general public, which does not require an account and password, and four that are designed for particular government agencies that are registered with the JPBD and do require login.

Another unique aspect of the JPBD GeoPortal is that it supports the concept of data custodians, in other words, agencies within the Penang government that have been identified as responsible for maintaining specific datasets accessible through the JPBD GeoPortal. A unique capability of the JPBD GeoPOrtal is that custodians can use it to update the data they are responsible for.

Motivation for the GeoPortal

The immediate business driver for the GeoPortal was to facilitate timely and efficient access to geospatial data for JPBD 60 employees and external clients. JPBD uses a variety of desktop products including ArcGIS, MapInfo, and AutoCAD, but decided that they needed a cost-effective way to provide access to geospatial services to a much broader audience, a majority of whom had no GIS experience.

The system also had to be able to support a variety of different geospatial data formats from a number of external sources, including JUPEM (land registry), PTG (state land office), MPPP (local council for the island of Penang) , MPSP (local council for the mainland of Penang State), other State JPBD Departments, PTD (district land Office), Telekom Malaysia, TNB (power company), JKR (public works), PBA (water company), and external consultants.

Because of limited access to IT resources, JPBD required a web-based development environment that would enable non-programmers not only to develop applications, and also to support and maintain these applications. High performance was a basic requirement, and it had to perform well on low-end x86 hardware.

Based on these requirement JPBD decided to implement a web mapping system, and decided on MapGuide as the platform. They found that they were able to develop and maintain web applications themselves. In fact the only external help that they required was an outside contractor that helped with data preparation and hardware configuration and setup.


Working form the principle that a simple and reliable implementation of a small number of basic functions could address 80% of users requirements, the GIS team at JPBD implemented suppport for base map printing, querying and reporting, parcel information, property tax information, measuring distances and areas, land use and zoning information , access for custodians to update the data they are responsible for, and general geospatial data about Penang. The GeoPortal also supports metadata, and is moving toward the the Malaysian standard MS1759. From what I saw the GeoPortal is very easy to use and provides a lot of valuable information including thematic maps, photographs of facilities, and textual information, as well as links to other sources.

The development of the GeoPortal was supported by JPBD, PEGIS, MPPP, MPSP through a MaCGDI project in 2004 led by JPBD.


One of the things that impressed me about the GeoPortal was the challenges that JPBD faced in developing it. Besides the general problems of limited awareness among management of the benefits of geospatial technology, limited funding, the difficulty of convincing government agencies to share their data, different standards for metadata in different government agencies, and the difficulty in identifying data custodians who are willing to take responsibility for data sets, the GIS team at JPBD faced some challenges that were unique to their environment. For example, for security reasons they are not permitted to publish aerial photos. They also have to follow JUPEM and other government guidelines for data security. For example, they are not allowed to display data on Google Earth. Government guidelines require a five year rotation of government employees, so that GIS skills are lost every five years and new people have to be trained.

Two key reasons why government agencies were reluctant to share data were the lack of guidelines for sharing data, basically intellectual property rights, and pricing, what to charge to government geospatial data. These are not new issues, but were particularly challenging for JPBD because there really were no precedents or defined policies for addressing these issues. Ultimately, a practical solution was adopted. A set of guidelines was developed and agreed upon that defined standard operating procedures (SOP), with defined rights and costs for sharing data among MPPP, MPSP, JPBD, PEGIS, technical departments (JKR), and other user groups. This is really a huge accomplishment, finding a way for multiple government agencies voluntarily to work together to share data.


The GIS team at JPBD has challenging plans for the future. First for all they intend to continue to enhance support for MyGDI, the national MaCGDI portal for state and local governments.

Secondly, they intend to develop 3D city models starting with heritage areas including support for high resolution photogrammetry and laser scanning.

They are also planning to develop an "eInventory" for open space and traditional villages (kampung) in Malasia to help prevent the loss of these important resources as Malaysia undergoes rapid development.

They are also planning to develop a common web mapping platform based on MapGuide for all of the web mapping applications in the Penang Government including JPBD Geoportal, PEGIS Map Browser, and MPSP GeoPortal.

Finally they are thinking very creatively of new ways to even further boraden access to geospatial data and services and to expand the concept of custodianship.

Net Net

The GIS team at Penang JPBD has overcome some incredible hurdles to improve data sharing in Penang. They have dramatically expanded access to geospatial data and services both within the government and with the general public and have begun the process of establishing the concept of custodianship within the Penang goverment. They have also begun to address the difficult issues of intellectual property rights and pricing for government geospatial data. Really a very impressive achievement.

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