Visual intelligence to inform voters

Federal and State elections bring into focus a broad range of issues, some or many of which are very important to us.   Ultimately, it is the balancing of these issues and judgements about the various visions, priorities and programs on offer that determines how we vote.

Many of the promises offered up by the different parties can be presented in map form.   Using interactive map tools, new spatial technology is allowing voters to engage and better understand issues than ever before.  Spatial Vision’s is a good example of such an approach.  This site shows how social and political issues that emerged in the lead up to last year’s Victorian State Election could be visualised in the form of interactive maps.

For Victoria, the 2014 Election marked a period of debate and discussion within households, throughout the media and across the wider community, particularly in relation to road and rail infrastructure. Yet within this debate, there were limited ways of understanding how these issues potentially impacted the vote of electorates.

Creating , Spatial Vision converted election issue discussions into an interactive web-based map tool that provided a clear spatial representation of Victorian demographics and infrastructure proposals.   This information was presented in the context of estimated seat margins based on the 2010 results using new seat boundaries (by Antony Green).  Using the internet, members of the public could readily access interactive online maps which provided a view of community issues and their relationship to electorates, such as rail road crossing removal proposals, or a higher density of younger voters or the unemployed, in relation to more marginal seats.   

“We looked at which issues were important in key marginal seats and converted this information into an intelligent visual format.  We showed how we could use spatial information to tell an important story,” says Spatial Vision GIS and Mapping Services Manager Stephen Farrell.

The visualisation tool utilised CartoDB, a Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud computing platform enabling GIS and web mapping tools to be shown in a web browser.

“Moving to the Internet and onto the Cloud, interactive mapping is now widely accessible. What was once quite difficult to publish for the public is now fairly easy” says Farrell.

Adapting the 2014 Victorian Election project to apply to other Australian regions in late January, Spatial Vision turned its attention to Queensland, ahead of the 2015 Election. In the week leading up to the Queensland Election on January 31, Spatial Vision quickly put together a view of where key marginal seats were situated in relation to current areas of higher unemployment or unemployment change, and created the interactive map, again illustrating how some of the stories behind the State’s politics could be better shared.

Looking to the future, Spatial Vision envisages many applications for this innovative technology to better communicate issues or ways in which they are being tackled.

“With a more informed and engaged community there is a greater need than ever for government and other groups to better communicate and account for their programs and the outcomes.  Tools like this can only improve such a process and benefit the broader community”, says Farrell.


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Stephen Farrell

Stephen is the Chief Spatial Officer for Spatial Vision and has extensive experience in the application of spatial technology to support better natural resource management for over 30 years.  Stephen’s extensive experience includes leading nationally significant projects such as scenario modelling for Melbourne Peri-urban region, delineation of old-growth forests, and assessing the likely impacts of climate change on Victoria natural resources and coastal assets

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