CGI bags £5m contract to design England’s flood forecasting system

Written by Rebecca Hill on 11 January 2017 in News

The Environment Agency has awarded a three-year, £5m contract to CGI to design, deliver and run its Future Flood Forecasting System for England.

Widespread floods have hit the UK in recent years - Photo credit: Fotolia

The system, which aims to help the agency produce and share flood forecasts more effectively and efficiently, as well as cutting costs, will provide a single, consistent national system for monitoring flood data.

The system will use a range of data management and analysis technologies to improve the quality and accuracy of flood forecasts, such as map-based visualisation technology from SME Mapcite to overlay multiple sets of data to help assess the impacts on high-risk areas or buildings like hospitals and sub-stations.

CGI said that the system would be based on the company’s digital insight platform, which runs on Microsoft’s Azure Cloud and offers levels of scalability to help it manage times of peak data processing demands during extreme weather and flood conditions.

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The company was keen to emphasise that the project involved work with SMEs – Mapcite was part of CGI’s accelerator programme to help innovative smaller companies gain access to government contracts – and research teams at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

“We have married our own capabilities with extensive hydrology expertise from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the latest innovations from British SME, Mapcite,” said Elwyn Jones, vice president of UK central government at CGI. “This solution will digitally transform the way floods are forecasted across the country”

The move follows a number of serious floods across the country in recent years, as the government has come under fire for a lack of preparedness and support for communities at risk.

“We are absolutely committed to increasing the timeliness, accuracy and usefulness of our flood forecasts in order to improve our response to flooding,” said Craig Woolhouse.

“[The new system] will bring together regional systems into a single national system to make it quicker and easier to monitor forecasts and provide our experts with more time to analyse the data and communicate with our teams on the ground.”

Meanwhile, the user research team at the Government Digital Service have published a blogpost on the Local Digital Coalition website setting out how they have worked with the Environment Agency to improve flooding content for citizens.

User research showed that a crucial part of the journey was the link from the GOV.UK page to the local authority site that administered a number of flood-related tasks, and so assessed council content.

GDS said that the best websites use understandable, meaningful and specific titles – such as ‘find out where to get sandbags’ – and don’t have too much content for users, who are most likely facing imminent flooding, to deal with.

“It’s worth looking at the content you’ve got, and assessing how useful it really is. If it’s low-traffic and not meeting a user need, it might be best to simply delete it. Keeping it on the site risks slowing down users in real need,” said GDS’ Joe Harrison and Jane Eastwood.

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