AWS Public Sector Blog

Canada’s Federal Geospatial Platform supports decision-making using AWS

Data has become a new global currency in the digital age, and the capacity to turn data into useful information is becoming increasingly important. The Canadian government collects and uses data like geospatial data to support goals such as economic growth, environmental management, and social well-being.

The publishing of geospatial data and dynamic maps has grown since 2007 in large part because of the increased availability of new technologies with enhanced computing capabilities that make it possible to capture and share geospatial data in near real-time. Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides cloud infrastructure that can scale up or down based on demand, and this scalability makes it easier to share information and data.

Fast access to open geospatial data via the Federal Geospatial Platform and Open Maps

In 2014, the Government of Canada initiated the development of an intranet site called the Federal Geospatial Platform (FGP) and a public site known as Open Maps on the Government of Canada’s Open Government Portal. Launched in 2017, these sites make it possible to find, access, and view over 5,000 open geospatial data from Canadian federal departments, as well as those from the provinces and territories, and some Canadian municipalities. By searching through a simple catalogue, users can find and view interoperable economic, social, and environmental datasets in literally millions of different combinations on an interactive map. Users can also download data for use in their own desktop applications.

How they built it

Initially, the FGP site was housed within the Government’s traditional on-premise computing infrastructure. However, to keep pace with digital transformation, adoption of federal cloud first strategies, and to meet growing demand for efficiency in technical infrastructure, the platform began its journey towards cloud technology. With the support from Natural Resources Canada’s information technology branch, and in partnership with several partner federal organizations, the FGP deployed ESRI’s ArcGIS platform on AWS Cloud infrastructure.

Moving the site and its infrastructure to the cloud made the FGP future ready. Additionally, the FGP team can now rapidly put in place similar infrastructure and technology setups during emergencies that demand collaborative, scalable working environments. This is exactly what they did when the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. The FGP team was able to deploy a fully operable, geospatially-enabled cloud-based infrastructure in under 72 hours to support the Public Health Agency of Canada’s response to COVID-19. It enabled staff from across departments and jurisdictions to work on a common infrastructure, use validated and interoperable data, and leverage established communication channels for coordination. The result: the ability to produce hundreds of different COVID-19 products for decision-makers, leveraging a single investment.

To make this happen, the FGP team used several AWS technologies. They used AWS CodePipeline to manage upgrades, patches, and other technology changes, along with AWS CodeBuild, AWS CloudFormation, AWS Systems Manager, and Amazon Route 53. The FGP site also used Jenkins, an open source automation server, to run automated tests. Due to the combination of AWS and open source infrastructure, the FGP site could quickly revert to a previous state without interrupting development or existing operational environments. The result was faster, simpler deployment of cloud technologies while enabling seamless and continuous support for the FGP site, Open Maps, and other sites depending on the platform’s technologies.

What’s next and learn more

The Federal Geospatial Platform’s use of cloud technologies like those from AWS means their geospatial infrastructure can quickly grow whenever required – especially during emergencies like COVID-19, making it highly suitable for other disaster situations where geospatial data sharing and coordination are essential to preparation, response, and recovery.

Are you a Government of Canada organization interested in finding out more about how the Federal Geospatial Platform put in place its geospatial cloud infrastructure? Send them an email to learn more.

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