Delivering interactive mapping for evidence informed planning in Ireland

The All-Island Research Observatory (AIRO) has been working towards improving evidence informed planning in Ireland for the last number of years. Instant Atlas mapping software has been a key driver in the success of the Observatory and is one of the main reasons why the site has become such a popular resource for policy makers, planners and researchers across Ireland.

AIRO is a key project within the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA) at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth (NUIM). NIRSA’s remit is to undertake fundamental, applied and comparative research on spatial processes and their effects on social and economic development in Ireland. Within the institute AIRO acts is the main planning research unit and as such collects, analyses and provides evidence and tools to support better planning and decision making.

AIRO was developed in late 2010 and has since become a key part of the data infrastructure in Ireland. Close collaboration with many central Government Departments and the Central Statistics Office (CSO) means that AIRO now has a vast suite of information at its disposal. Much of this is harnessed and made accessible to users through Instant Atlas interactive mapping resources on the site. It’s been a no-brainer for data agencies to release their information to us as the end product is a really simple set of tools where everybody can jump on and explore the data at various spatial scales. For organisations such as the CSO this is really important. With large sums of exchequer funding behind Census 2011 (€51m total, €40m on enumeration) the more people that are using the outputs for decision making the better. In theory, more informed decision making should lead to more effective public expenditure.

AIRO resources for local and regional authorities

AIRO currently hosts over 40 individual mapping toolkits for local and regional authorities across the country. Access to these simple toolkits is completely free and as a result more users are now making decisions based on accurate and reliable evidence. With over 300 public sector users online each day the resource is becoming a central part of the decision making process right across central and local government.

The current AIRO Instant Atlas mapping toolkits contain over 700 variables from Census 2011 and 2006 for themes such as population, housing, economy, transport, industry, education and social class etc. This key baseline of information has also been supplemented with additional datasets on Indices of Deprivation, Access to Services and House Price information.

Figure 1: Mapping unemployment levels in Limerick City at the Small Area (SA) level

Mapping Unemployment Levels in Limerick City at the Small Area (SA) level

Figure 2: A divided city – mapping deprivation levels across Dublin City

A Divided City - Mapping Deprivation levels across Dublin City

AIRO resources for schools

Over the past couple of months AIRO has been working with the team at ScoilnetMaps to develop a series of interactive mapping tools and census mapping work plans for Leaving Certificate students in Ireland. This is an exciting new development for both AIRO and Scoilnet and will hopefully introduce many students to census information and interactive mapping and assist in the teaching of Geography, History and Mathematics. The AIRO team has developed the mapping resources in the new HTML5 format to enable students and teachers to work through the lessons using i-pads and tablets.

HTML 5 Viewer for Schools in Ireland

Figure 3: HTML 5 Viewer for schools in Ireland

The lesson plans developed are as follows:

1. Using Scoilnet maps to learn about the population of the BMW

The aim of this exemplar lesson is to demonstrate how the information Layers in Scoilnet maps can be used in a syllabus-friendly way. In particular, the Boundaries layer is used to locate the BMW region and the Census Population Data layer is used to examine the population dynamics of the region.

2. Using the AIRO Census mapping module to determine the total population of a variety of Irish regions

The aim of this lesson is to introduce students to the main functions of the AIRO Census mapping module in Scoilnet maps and to familiarise them with the EU’s administrative or NUTS regions by carrying out practical tasks on population at a variety of scales.

3. Using the AIRO Census mapping module to examine the age and sex structure of the Irish population

The aim of this lesson is to develop students’ skills in the sourcing of age and sex statistics from the AIRO Census mapping module in Scoilnet Maps and to develop graph drawing and interpretation skills.

4. Using the AIRO Census mapping module to Construct Regional Profiles for Comparative Purposes

The aim of this lesson is to develop students’ awareness of the range of information on Irish regions available in the AIRO Census mapping module in Scoilnet Maps and to demonstrate how to access this information for the purposes of regional comparisons.

To view the mapping application and workplans please visit Scoilnet here or get direct access to the html5 tool through AIRO here


This post was written by Justin Gleeson, Data and Technical Manager of the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA).

Learn more about how Justin uses InstantAtlas software for the creation of interactive maps – Read the story

See Justin’s InstantAtlas presentation at the 2012 IA User Conference in London – Click here for the video

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