Turin map sharing (MappaTO)

Published on: 11/05/2009

MappaTO is a web application designed to offer citizens a web 2.0 instrument to customize and share maps on the City of Turin website. Using Google Maps technology, MappaTO allows users create maps with points of interests, paths and other areas. Moreover citizens can make their maps private or public, changeable or unchangeable. If every citizen can see public maps, only identified people can create and share their own maps. Identification and authorization are provided by Torinofacile system, the portal where it’s possible to find all online municipal services and where a citizen can register and acquire an individual digital identity to spend on the city portals in order to be securely identified. All the categories and some of the maps are directly provided by the City of Turin back office editors, but the service is totally open to the citizens input.

MappaTO functionalities are essentially these:

  • Point out and categorize City points of interest, paths and areas;
  • Give City Administration a chance to publish and share categorized thematic maps;
  • Give citizens a chance to publish and share their own maps;
  • Encourage users collaboration and other users map building inside the local community;
  • Map exportation to Google Earth and Tom Tom systems.

It’s important to mark that the project is designed in a way that the maps infrastructure can be easily changed and Google cartography can be replaced, for istance, by a Microsoft or a Yahoo one.

Description of target users and groups

Target users are all the citizens. In fact everybody can use this service through the Turin City website and every one who has a Torinofacile identity can customize and share his own maps on the community.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

Usually city administration gave citizens and professionals an official and detailed set of maps, viewable only with specific software and not changeable by the user. In Web 2.0 era,  citizens are used to services like Google Maps and to sharing of data and information. The City of Turin thought it was useful and interesting to give citizens both services, a professional one addressed to professionals and business users, and a light and easy one for users that want to build and share their content. The second one is exactly MappaTO. In this way citizens can find Administration maps and also other users maps, they can create their own and even share with others. There is a changing of  the point of view, with users that participate in building and customizing each other the maps. This result was the first goal of the project, as the City Administration wants to involve citizens in participation processes like this.

Technology solution

Web application MappaTO is based on following elements:

  • A server side component, written in PHP language, that implements business logic behind navigation and  data management.
  • A client side component, written in Javascript language, that manages communication with Google Maps API (Application Programming Interface).
  • An authentication service, called Torinofacile, that manages user authentication and authorization.

The PHP application, it’s made up of three different modules:

  • Navigation business logic: manages public and private navigation, implementing functionalities like maps view and maps modifying.
  • Geographic localization engine: manages XML request as input and provides a response with Javascript code, KML and OV2 files.
  • Back office module: gives editors functionalities related to map visibility and user management.

This PHP module uses a MySQL database, with the help of ADOdb open source library. Language versions are PHP 5.1.6 and MySQL 5.0.66 sp1 enterprise.

About client side Javascript component, it’s made up of some JS classes and has the task to manage data provided from the server side components, using Google Maps API. This component is multi-browser and it supports Internet Explorer from version 6 on, Opera from version 9 on, Firefox from 2.0 on, Apple Safari from 3.0 on.

About  Torino Facile authentication service, this application has been developed in 2001 by the City of Turin to manage citizens authentication and authorization. Communication between this component and the other application modules is based on XML protocol.

Technology choice: Standards-based technology

Main results, benefits and impacts

Results are relevant to innovation, user experience and access statistics. Innovation is related to the web 2.0 oriented design and the use of Google Maps API. About user experience, feedback has been good and users are creating and modifying maps easily and frequently. It's possible to obtain users response to this project from access statistics, bearing in mind that MappaTO has been promoted only via the website of the City. At this moment average number of daily once a day users is more than 200 and about 1000 pages are visited per day. Active users of MappaTO community are about 700 and they share maps, path and so on with the other citizens.

Track record of sharing

This project has been appreciated from other italian municipalities, and it has been succesfully shared e.g. with the City of Grosseto. It has been a good experience, that proved it's easy to replicate MappaTO in other contexts or municipalities. All this thank's to the use of standards and the separation between the application itself and identification system.

Lessons learnt

Lesson learnt are the following:

  • citizens are able and happy to share information and experience, that's the way participation projects like MappaTO are well welcome in the city local community.
  • citizens are used to manage and share Google maps, so it's easy for them to use MappaTO and they don't have to learn more to manage it.
  • people share maps and localized information about private matters and about public interest matters, helping public administration in collecting and providing information. This advantage both citizens and municipalities.
Scope: Local (city or municipality)