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The Province of Ferrara is 2,631 kilometers wide and is almost completely agricultural. It is located in the northern part of Italy and has a population of 360,000. As a result of the province being appointed as a UNESCO heritage site, the Ferrara Province Police Department—which has always had as one of its mandates the pursuit of environmental crimes, including waste abandonment outside authorized collection areas—chose to be proactive in involving its citizens in safeguarding the land. It was decided that community interaction through the use of maps would increase communication between the government and citizens and generate innovative and useful social content.
Realizing that it had a mutual desire to protect the region, the Province of Ferrara selected Ferrara-based GeoGraphics S.r.l. as its project partner, and the partners embarked on a multiyear collaboration focused on building public interest in environmental management.
Such a complex issue required an operative platform that included a completely integrated and ready-to-use suite of products from desktop to web editing, and the decision was made to build on a platform consisting of ArcGIS Server, Microsoft .NET Framework, and specific software procedures. All data but the reports, which are dynamic information, is cached to improve performance; special mashup procedures were realized using Internet mapping satellite imagery.
The result of this collaboration of law enforcement and GIS technicians was Ecouniamoci, which is self-financed with one main goal—to encourage all citizens to take control of and respect the environment. The team transformed operative needs and guidelines into an advanced community project that speaks especially to new generations through their favorite language: the web. That goal was completely reached; as results can confirm, citizens are more sensitive to this new tool and act as guardians and protectors of their precious environment.
Ecouniamoci is a tool that aims to protect the environment in which the people live and is intended for citizens willing to report environmental deterioration issues, such as abandoned waste or the existence of poisoned bait. A special feature of the project is that it involves all main local police departments that work in the territory as provincial police, urban police from the 26 municipalities of the Province of Ferrara, and the four multiutility companies that deal with the waste management cycle.
Ecouniamoci is completely designed to work via the Internet and is based on the geographic component; the main goal is to set up an active network that would be responsible for its own land and grow as a trustee through reporting of environmental concerns. The local institutions took action to control and eliminate increasing reports of bad environmental habits and potentially hazardous situations through manners provided by law.
Ecouniamoci uses a geographic database of the Province of Ferrara. The data includes the digitized regional paper maps, streets and numbers, the hydrographic network, cadastral data, dumpster positioning, and more. Ecouniamoci also integrates Internet mapping satellite images, allowing better representation of the area of concern and keeping the content current through frequent updates.
Ecouniamoci is composed of four access points. Two are meant for citizens—a free, simple minisite (www.ecouniamoci.it) with all the information and guidance needed, and a map viewer to locate the area a citizen would like to report. The remaining two are for law enforcement—a dedicated viewer with more reserved cartographic information, and a portal to perform management procedures (a back-office system).
Through the citizen viewer, users find all the project targets and information needed to access the map. Those citizens who wish to make a report on an environmental situation or the discovery of poisoned bait can directly access the map using special buttons. Using an ArcGIS Server graphic viewer, the portal allows typical navigation functions, such as zoom in and zoom out, pan, and define map scale range. Predefined and fixed legends and queries help find addresses, places, and streams. Once users have found the precise point where they identified the waste, they can click on the map, click the Insert Report button, and complete a simple form with information that will help law enforcement locate the right area. It is further possible to provide information about the party responsible for the abandonment, if known, and any other useful data.
There is also a poisoned bait reporting section that allows citizens to report poisoned food baits in areas usually frequented by domestic animals—typically, people walking their dogs. In the citizen viewer, all reports inserted by other users are visible as well; communication is bidirectional, and citizens may use this information to find out about risks to themselves or their animals that may be present in the territory.
The law enforcement minisite is designed for exclusive use by law enforcement units, where information pages, documents, and forms are available for handling reported events. This protected and reserved section allows the operator to access experiences and pictures uploaded as evidence of the various operations. To avoid repetition of citizen reports of the same problem, the system verifies and signals the presence of similar reports in the same area of the territory and allows officials to end reporting via a feedback e-mail. In the law enforcement private section, the system will automatically add a series of data. After the waste is removed and/or the report is reviewed by law enforcement, the citizen will receive an e-mail on the status of the communication. It is important to note that, inside this section, there is more functionality than what the citizen can see.
In addition, exclusively for law enforcement, a mobile component is available to enable the reporting and verifying of events through portable PCs and handheld devices (with ArcPad software installed), both on-site and online.
This project demonstrates how the global community provides tools that allow all contributors to manage and share information of public interest. Next steps will include system migration to ArcGIS 10 with Silverlight technology to improve speed and aesthetics.