How LINZ developed the award-winning LINZ Data Service

With over 1900 datasets and a thriving user base, the site is considered one of the most successful open data projects in the world.

Land Information New Zealand is a government agency responsible for creating and managing information about where things are in New Zealand. LINZ encourages the use of location information and runs New Zealand’s survey and title system.

Using the LINZ Data Service on the Koordinates platform, LINZ publishes over 1900 open datasets to more than 40,000 users. Prior winners of the Asia Pacific Spatial Excellence awards, the LINZ Data Service is considered one of the most successful and impactful open data projects in the world.

The early days

The idea for the LINZ Data Service arose in 2010, as LINZ began to look at better ways of releasing their data. At that time, government agencies were beginning to discuss the importance of open data, and the team at LINZ knew that they had a leadership role to play.

Deputy Chief Executive at LINZ, Jan Pierce, says that at that point LINZ data, “was distributed in quite a raw format. Before it could be used, it really needed to be reformatted, which was still a barrier for users. We needed to find a way for users to get the data in the formats the user needed, without going to an intermediary or having to spend a lot of time or money.”

Former LINZ Data Service Manager Jeremy Palmer says that Koordinates was the obvious choice. “There was no one else in the market who could do what we needed — to publish data and make it accessible to our customers. The product and our strategy around publishing open data were nicely aligned.”

Jan agrees. “We chose Koordinates following the strong recommendations from our technical staff. They knew that Koordinates was the only way we’d see the gains we needed — and they were right.”

Publishing data for all users

As Jan explains, increasing reuse was always the most important measure of success for the project. “There was always been unexpected benefits, but at a strategic level it was really about making sure we were getting the greatest usage — and best ROI — from the data we were producing.”

When making the decision to publish with Koordinates, this focus on getting data to a broader range of users was key. As Jeremy explains, “One of the great strengths of Koordinates, and one of the reasons we chose Koordinates above other options, is that we can get data into different segments of users. Other GIS solutions - even if it’s only just a map viewer - are only targeting a small segment of potential market, which we can broadly call ‘GIS people.’ 

“Koordinates took a broader view, which very much aligned with our customer base. CAD downloads, for example, enabled us to easily get LINZ data to the surveyor, the architect, the engineer — which are key customer segments for us that are not well served by traditional GIS solutions.”

Current LINZ Data Service Manager Bill Nelson agrees. “We’ve found that users find different parts of the product useful, and are doing useful things. Developers using the APIs are really important, but that’s just one customer group for us.

“There are also the GIS users, and the CAD users. And then there are the members of the public, who just want to view some property data, for example. It’s important that we can cater to all of these people, and not just one group.”

Jeremy notes that another important audience was staff members at LINZ itself. “One of the most transformational things about the LINZ Data Service was how it changed our own internal consumption. LINZ data that was previously quite hard to access was now much more easily available.

“So we had teams and contractors consuming data directly from the site, instead of using the internal sources that existed previously — and changing their business processes as a result.”

A changing organisation

As the LINZ Data Service has developed and grown, LINZ has increasingly focused on making it as easy as possible for customers to access data.

As Jeremy explains, “The LINZ Data Service has completely transformed how LINZ thinks about publishing information. Initially our focus was products — maps, charts, land transaction system. Now data is the product for our customers. It can be reusable in those applications, those upstream products and services. That’s changed the culture and thinking.”

One of the most important consequences of the LINZ Data Service has been feedback from users. “As soon as we had this public facing platform, it automatically started changing the mindset of the organisation. With data becoming immediately accessible, we started getting feedback from customers in real-time. And we had to start thinking about your processes in a different way.

“It changed how we were working with customers. We started doing continuous improvement in response to the feedback we were getting. We became even more energised and passionate about how we do things. We have a much stronger feedback loop between LINZ and our customers, to the benefit of both.”

Jan Pierce agrees. “By making the data available and getting feedback, we’ve been able to improve the usability of our data. It was a real mind-shift change — and not just for the distribution of the data, but for the work done by the data managers themselves.”

No one out there has a service like this. You can’t underestimate the success of the service. The impact has been remarkable... No other platform that we’ve seen—and we’ve done our research, looking at products all over the world during our procurement rounds — can actually do what Koordinates does

Jan Pierce Deputy Chief Executive, LINZ

“It’s a lot easier than you think.”

Jan notes that the technical barriers to publishing data have reduced hugely over the last five years, and it’s now much easier to get a data service and start publishing data. “It’s a lot easier than you think to get your data out there and getting it used. It wasn’t quite so easy five or ten years ago, but with the service offered by Koordinates today, it’s really easy to get your own data service — equivalent to the LINZ Data Service — up and running.”

Jan encourages agencies to investigate using Koordinates to publish their data. “I would really encourage agencies to take a close look at what’s offered by Koordinates. There will be unexpected benefits that will come out of the use of your data. There’s huge value in your data, more than you know. It’s been those users who just come out the woodwork.”

“It’s not over yet”

For Jeremy and Jan, the LINZ Data Service has been an unqualified success. As Jan puts it, “no one out there has a service like this. You can’t underestimate the success of the service. The impact has been remarkable. Some of the case studies we’ve done — we would never have imagined those uses.”

Jeremy agrees. “It’s surpassed everyone’s expectations. We’ve won awards. We’ve got great stories from our users, huge numbers of active users. Every year it grows faster than it did before. It’s quite amazing, after these years. But the number of downloads increases every year.

“We’ve got users relying on LDS, who need to get the data at a certain point in time. It’s BAU for a lot of people. It’s business-critical for a lot of organisations and companies.”

Jan sees Koordinates as fundamental to the success of the LINZ Data Service. “It is a world-leading product. You can’t go past that. No other platform that we’ve seen — and we’ve done our research, looking at products all over the world during our procurement rounds — can actually do what Koordinates does. This is the best product platform in the world, and we feel lucky to have worked with Koordinates so closely over the years.

“We’re really proud of the impact that the LINZ Data Service has had — and it’s not over yet. It’s going from strength to strength. We’re bringing on users all the time. And whenever we tell people about it, their first reaction is, ‘this is awesome.’”