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Regional Software Holdings scopes a shared environmental data management platform

Regional Software Holdings scopes a shared environmental data management platform

The IRIS platform used by seven regional councils is being managed into retirement and replaced.

Waikato Regional Council is one of six council shareholders in Regional Software Holdings.

Waikato Regional Council is one of six council shareholders in Regional Software Holdings.

Credit: Richard Gallagher

Council owned Regional Software Holdings (RSHL) is scoping a new platform to deliver consistency to the collection and presentation of environmental data.

Regional councils currently operate four different core software solutions for water quality environmental data, and many more bespoke solutions across the environmental monitoring space, a pre-tender request for information (RFI) said. 

"The result of this is sixteen different systems for the collection, storage, monitoring, and reporting of time-series environmental data," the document said. 

"There are inconsistencies in implementation even where common software solutions are in use.

"This is problematic on multiple levels. Firstly, it inhibits real-time and coordinated access to data by the public and stakeholders. Secondly, there is a lack of consistency in terms of processes, quality assurance and standards applied to the sector’s environmental data assets."

There was an increasing expectation of the sector to be more consistent in its data collection and definitions, while providing prompt access to environmental data and other information assets. 

A not-for-profit council controlled organisation, RSHL is is owned by six shareholding councils: Waikato, Northland, Taranaki, The West Coast, Horizons and Environment Southland. It is best known for delivering the Integrated Regional Information System (IRIS), which was developed by Datacom and is now used by seven of New Zealand's 11 regional councils.

The proposed new system has been dubbed the Environmental Data Management System (EDMS).

"We are looking for a partner that supports and drives open interfacing and sharing of information for the betterment of New Zealand’s environmental data," the RFI said.

Regional sector and council strategies put a strong emphasis on accurate and timely environmental monitoring, including the collection of data and its supply for public information as well as for the development of evidence-based policy.

For this reason. this project was not solely an ICT project, the RFI said. It will also include business change components, to obtain improved consistency of environmental data nationally, which was expected to result in opportunities for improved efficiency and collaboration across the sector.

"Whilst federation of data has been possible across existing infrastructure ... it will require significantly more work to harmonise the sector’s environmental data," the RFI said. 

Therefore, the EDMS project aimed to provide a single access point to data from multiple sources in a consistent format to agreed standards.

"We are looking for a partner that knows data, data transmission, presentation and sharing," the RFI said. "A partner that supports and drives open interfacing and sharing of information for the betterment of the New Zealand’s environmental data sector. 

"They must have strong integration capabilities, as well as a proven delivery methodology, and experience in implementing large scale solutions of this nature. They must be adaptable, work closely with our councils on an ongoing basis, and continually deliver practical solutions that meet the sector’s needs."

Meanwhile, RSHL is also working towards a broad redevelopment of its IRIS platform as well in a programme dubbed "IRIS NextGen".

IRIS NextGen will be cloud based with better online and mobile features, RSHL's statement of intent said. It would be more efficient for staff and for customers.

Over the next few years, RSHL intended to identify the IRIS NextGen solution, a transition plan for existing users, and a growth plan to attract new councils to the programme.

"The IRIS NextGen programme will require changes to the shareholding and membership arrangements of RSHL," the statement said. "RSHL will implement these changes over the next two years." 

With the NextGen programme under way, the existing IRIS platform was now in it’s "sunset phase", being managed to retirement and replacement.

In 2020, five vendors were shortlisted to undertake the redevelopment, with US-based Infor a possible contender. Reseller News is enquiring about the outcome.


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