What is GIS?
This is probably the most frequently asked question posed to GIS experts or people connected in any way to this evolving technology. And to be honest it’s probably the hardest to answer in a clear manner. GIS is tool or a technological field that integrate both geographic features with tabular data in order to produce map, analyzing spatial data in order to provide solution to complex real world problems. It can as well be defined as a computer based system of capturing, storing, analyzing and presenting spatial data.
Some keywords in the above definition are; GEOGRAPHY – which means that some part of the data is spatial. By spatial we are referencing to locations on the earth. Coupled with this data is usually tabular data known as ATTRIBUTE DATA. ATTRIBUTE DATAcan generally be defined as additional information about the spatial features. For example, An Hospital is a spatial entity or object, the actual location of the hospital is a spatial data. Additional data such as the hospital name, patient capacity, hospital category, staff strength etc. would make up the attribute data. It is the combination of these two data types that enables GIS to be such an effective problem solving tool through its analysis capability.
So, what is this amazing technology used for?
Uses of GIS are diverse. At the most basic level, it is used as computer cartographic tool, which is for straight forward map making. The real power of GIS, however, is through using its spatial capability to analyze attribute and geographic information. The end result of the analysis can now be used as a decision support system for organizations or government establishments. Some examples of the types of questions that GIS is used to answer might be:
- How many Hospitals are within one mile of the bus stop?
- What areas are underserved with public facility?
- What are the different types of vegetation in an area using?
- How long distances do I have to walk to get to my location?
- Is there an alternative route to my destination in case there is a blockage in the best route?
- Where are areas of high crime? Etc.