What Is GIS?

GIS Explained

GIS (Geographic Information Systems) is so much more than mapping. ESRI states, “GIS allows us to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, reports, and charts. GIS helps you answer questions and solve problems by looking at your data in a way that is quickly understood and easily shared.” (http://www.esri.com/what-is-gis)

Simply put, GIS allows you to provide a visual, geographical representation of an occurrence, trend, or other phenomenon. Since the majority of all information has a geographic component attached to it, GIS allows you to make informed decisions and logically solve problems across a wide range of subjects. Through the use of proprietary computer hardware and software, GIS links information stored in databases to a specific locale on a map.  It is the skill of a good GIS professional, however, to use these tools to gather information, construct and link databases, and report the findings through maps and charts.

Once these databases, maps, and charts are assembled, the sky is the limit. Federal, state, and local government agencies, business and industry, not-for-profit organizations, as well as the public sector can harness the power of these GIS tools in both making decisions and solving problems. For example, a county government can use GIS to evaluate public transportation routing, school walkways and signage, alternative locations for public facilities and services, and the location of trails and facilities in parks.

Using the analytical capability of GIS, well-informed choices can be made about topics like land usage and zoning; flood inundation modeling; population density and transportation flow; and soil type, topography and environmental conservancy. GIS can enable governing authorities to prepare databases and interactive reference maps such as enhanced 911; EMS and first responders; sewer, water, and utility lines; roadways and walkways; and the condition of infrastructure. Furthermore, through geocoding, GIS can be used to analyze the geographical distribution of demographic, income, wellness, and voting data for both business and political assessments.

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