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SeamlessUK, the service designed to provide easy access to the best in local and national community information, has launched a unique geographic and regional search service for its community information portal.

Available from March 2004, the new search features use the latest Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to increase the opportunities for seamlessUK users to target information about services and resources available in their neighbourhood.

The new GIS functionality delivers a more personalised and accessible community information service to the public. With the new searching enabled, the public can use seamlessUK to answer popular questions such as ‘where is my nearest GP surgery?’ or ‘I need a dentist within 5 miles of SE1’.

Existing seamlessUK partners and prospects alike are welcoming this as a first for community information projects and a real bonus for improving accessibility to information. To further improve accessibility, seamlessUK also pinpoints the location of results on a map and provides ‘how to get there’ information, plus links to local and national bus and train timetables.

SeamlessUK integrates information from local resources alongside high profile national information provider partners such as BBC, LearnDirect and AdviceGuide from Citizens Advice. The GIS search facilities work seamlessly with local and national resources so improving access to information, irrespective of where the data originated. For example, in the London Borough of Bexley, the public can seamlessly access information from nhs.uk alongside the local council’s Community Information service.

As a standard feature of the SeamlessUK service, the new GIS search features are automatically made available for the national information providers’ data. Uniquely, seamlessUK’s GIS technology also checks the metadata held for locally provided resources and, where possible, enriches the existing metadata by adding geographic information such as town, postcode or coordinates.

At a time when the latest research shows that Councils in England are set to spend 66 per cent more on e-government projects than they had previously predicted[1], it is vital that councils use existing best practice to save resources and speed up the delivery of new services. The new GIS search is a further example of how the seamlessUK service delivers practical Best Value benefits. By becoming members of the seamlessUK partnership, local authorities can improve the quality and consistency of their existing local metadata and improve the accessibility to local data, without incurring local resourcing implications.

Cllr Bonnie Hart, Cabinet Member for Lifelong Learning and Libraries of Essex County Council, comments, “The GIS service element of seamlessUK provides yet another good reason for councils to join seamlessUK in order to take the pain out of meeting their ‘implementing e-government targets’. The development is a cost effective, ‘ready made’ solution that reflects the increasing importance of community information in e-Government strategy.”

Cllr Hart continues, “The new GIS will also benefit councillors who can use the service to snapshot the level and geographic spread of services available within their ward, supporting future service provision planning.”

Community information is emerging as a priority area for e-Government[2]. seamlessUK, originally a NOF funded project and now self-supporting, was set up to enable the delivery of integrated community information services for the community, delivered by local and regional partnerships where appropriate and connected to a national infrastructure.

The original nine seamlessUK local authorities have recently been joined by four new members - Croydon, Greenwich, Lambeth and Southwark – who are all members of the South East London E-Government Services partnership (SEaLEGS). The GIS service is another benefit to seamlessUK partners. Existing partners already enjoy access to information from national information providers; have use of the seamlessUK public-facing community information taxonomy and the community information metadata profile, as part of the package.

e-government solutions supplier and seamlessUK technology partner, Fretwell-Downing Informatics (FDI), designed the GIS functionality. FDI will be showcasing it at epi2004 on May 21st at the NEC Birmingham http://www.promarta.co.uk/epi2004/ and at the London Connects conference on the 6th July http://govnet.co.uk/londonegov/.

Helen Leech from Medway Council has also been accepted an invitation to speak on the topic of seamless information portals at the epi2004 conference.

- ends -

NOTES TO EDITORS:

seamlessUK
seamlessUK is the development of a national structure of community information portals – a locally branded citizen’s gateway for each council partner. seamlessUK is nationally scaleable and hospitable to all major content (information and services) providers and standards. The project software enables multilingual users and visually impaired citizens to access sources of information and complies with e-GIF and e-GMS standards. seamlessUK partners include: Bexley, Brighton and Hove, Bromley, Croydon, East Sussex, Essex, Greenwich, Kent, Lambeth, London Borough of Lewisham, Medway, North Lincolnshire and the London Borough of Southwark.

www.seamless-uk.info

SEaLEGS
www.londonconnects.org.uk (e-partnerships section)

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Catherine Dhanjal, TheAnswer Ltd, Tel: 0208 655 0953/0794 166 9925
Catherine.dhanjal@theansweruk.com

Published on: 12:00AM on 24th March 2004