In one of my articles about GIS Opportunities in Africa: the Continent NOT the Country, i confessed “each time I meet a friend and he/she asks me what we do as company! I try to stick to as basic an explanation as possible. Because I noticed each time I mentioned GIS related activities, it just got the person more confused.”
Well i feel indebted to all my non-GIS colleagues, with this article i hope to avoid the interrogation next time we meet!
What is GIS?
This is probably the most asked question posed to those in the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) field and is probably the hardest to answer in a succinct and clear manner. GIS is a technological field that incorporates geographical features with tabular data in order to map, analyze, and assess real-world problems.
The key word to this technology is Geography – this means that some portion of the data is spatial. In other words, data that is in some way referenced to locations on the earth. Coupled with this data is usually tabular data known as attribute data.
Attribute data can be generally defined as additional information about each of the spatial features. An example of this would be schools. The actual location of the schools is the spatial data.
Additional data such as the school name, level of education taught, student capacity would make up the attribute data. It is the partnership of these two data types that enables GIS to be such an effective problem solving tool through spatial analysis.
GIS operates on many levels. On the most basic level, geographic information systems technology is used as computer cartography, that is for straight forward mapping. The real power of GIS is through using spatial and statistical methods to analyze attribute and geographic information. The end result of the analysis can be derivative information, interpolated information or prioritized information.
GIS Versus Geospatial
There is an increasing trend to use the term geospatial instead of GIS. What is the difference between geospatial and GIS? Although some may use the terms interchangeably, there is a distinct difference between the two in that GIS refers more narrowly to the traditional definition of using layers of geographic data to produce spatial analysis and derivative maps.
Geospatial is more broadly use to refer to all technologies and applications of geographic data. For example, popular social media sites such as Foursquare and Facebook use “check-ins” that allow their users the ability to geographically tag their statuses. While those applications are considered to be geospatial, they don’t fall underneath the stricter definition of what makes up a geographic information system.
Other quotes to answer “What is GIS?”
“In the strictest sense, a GIS is a computer system capable of assembling, storing, manipulating, and displaying geographically referenced information, i.e. data identified according to their locations. Practitioners also regard the total GIS as including operating personnel and the data that go into the system.” ~ USGS“
A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer-based tool for mapping and analyzing things that exist and events that happen on earth. GIS technology integrates common database operations such as query and statistical analysis with the unique visualization and geographic analysis benefits offered by maps.” ~ ESRI
“GIS is an integrated system of computer hardware, software, and trained personnel linking topographic, demographic, utility, facility, image and other resource data that is geographically referenced.” ~ NASA
“A geographic information system is a special case of information systems where the database consists of observations on spatially distributed features, activities or events, which are definable in space as points, lines, or areas. A geographic information system manipulates data about these points, lines, and areas to retrieve data for ad hoc queries and analyses” (Kenneth Dueker,Portland State University, 1979).
GIS has already affected most of us in some way without us even realizing it. If you’ve ever using an Internet mapping program to find directions, congratulations, you’ve personally used GIS. The new supermarket chain on the corner was probably located using GIS to determine the most effective place to meet customer demand.
Why GIS is a Big Deal?
In one of our recent trainings, a student asked me why GIS is a big deal. The thing about GIS is that its a cross-cutting skill that complements many professions
There are numerous ways in which this technology can be used. The most common ones are:
- Management of resources
- Investigations of the earth’s surface that is scientific in nature
- Archeological uses
- Planning of locations and management of assets
- Urban & regional planning
- Criminology matters
- An Impact assessment of the environment
- The assessment and eventual development of infrastructure
- Studies of the demographics of an area plus its population
- Analysis with regards to engineering
Some of the common instances where you will find the GIS in use include:
- Emergency response teams normally use GIS when they want to collect logistics with regards to how they will move in times of natural disasters.
- The system also comes in handy when authorities want to discover any potential wetlands that need to be protected from the harmful effects brought about by pollution.
- Companies also take advantage of the GIS so that they may be able to choose a strategic market location that has not yet been saturated by other competitors in the particular niche industry.
- Management personnel use this system also so that they can be able to locate areas that are bound to suffer from catastrophes with regards to the infrastructure that is in place there.
- Any potential spread of diseases & other such like pandemic are usually limited by the use of the GIS since the patterns of their occurrence is predicted in sufficient time.
These are just broad strokes and pointers, but the application and ‘use of GIS is only limited by the users imagination” ~Jack Dangermond, ESRI
Always a pleasure reading your comments and insights.
About Author: Samuel Omara is a seasoned GIS and Remote Sensing Specialist, Managing Consultant and CEO of the company Geographic Information Solutions, we focus on GIS capacity building, Spatial data sales, Remote Sensing and Innovative data collection using smart phones. I have had the pleasure of building the capacity of several organizations and individuals in the most exciting field out there, GIS.
Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your
website and in accession capital to assert that I get actually enjoyed account your blog posts.
Anyway I’ll be subscribing to your feeds and even I achievement you
access consistently rapidly.
I just couldn’t go away your website prior to suggesting that I extremely enjoyed the standard info a person provide to
your guests? Is going to be again steadily to check out new posts
Heya i’m for the firset time here. I found this board and I find It truly usefujl & it
helped me out a lot. I hope to give something
back and help others like you aided me.
I simply want to tell you that I am just new to blogging and honestly enjoyed you’re web-site. Likely I’m going to bookmark your blog . You actually have tremendous posts. Appreciate it for revealing your blog site.
I just want to tell you that I’m beginner to weblog and absolutely liked your web page. Likely I’m likely to bookmark your site . You absolutely have incredible writings. Thanks a lot for sharing your website page.
That’s an inventive answer to an inteersting question
I must say that you’ve done a excellent job with this.
I don’t even know the way I finished up right here, but I thought this put up was great. I don’t know who you are but certainly you are going to a well-known blogger should you aren’t already. Cheers!|
I’ll right away grab your rss feed as I can’t find your email subscription link or newsletter service. Do you have any? Kindly let me know so that I could subscribe. Thanks.
Really… this is a beneficial websites
WONDERFUL Post.thanks for share..more wait .. …
What’s up, after reading this awesome piece of writing i am too happy to
share my familiarity here with friends.
It’s an remarkable paragraph in support of every one of
the web users; they may take advantage from it I am sure.
Hi, I really do believe this is a great blog. I stumbledupon it ;
) I will return yet again since I book marked it. Money and freedom is the best approach to change, may you be
rich and then guide others.
I don’t know if it’s just me or if perhaps everybody else experiencing
complications with your blog. It appears as though some of the written text in your own posts are running from the screen. Can another individual please provide
feedback and tell me if it is happening to them too?
This can be described as a problem with my internet browser because I’ve had this happen previously.
That is very attention-grabbing, You are an excessively professional blogger.
I’ve joined your feed and sit up for in the hunt for more of your excellent post.
Also, I’ve shared your website in my social networks!