Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Day is observed annually on November 18. According to gisday.com, the day provides an international forum for users of GIS technology to demonstrate real-world applications that are making a difference in our societies.
The first formal GIS Day took place in 1999, inspired by environmental activist and former US presidential candidate Ralph Nader. He considered GIS Day a good initiative for people to learn about geography and the uses of GIS. He wanted GIS Day to be a grassroots effort and open to everyone to participate.
What is GIS and how is it useful?
It is a special kind of information system applied to geographical data. According to National Geographic, “A geographic information system is a computer system for capturing, storing, checking, and displaying data related to positions on Earth’s surface. GIS can show many different kinds of data on one map. This enables people to more easily see, analyze, and understand patterns and relationships.”
According to GIS Lounge, an information portal operated by US-based GIS analyst Caitlin Dempsey Morais, the uses of the technology are many and varied. These include:
- Management of resources
- Investigations of the earth’s surface that is scientific in nature
- Archeological uses
- Planning of locations and management of assets
- Urban and regional planning
- Criminology matters
- Impact assessments 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
GIS is useful for:
- Businesses – helping them determine where to establish a new market location.
- Biologists – to track animal migration patterns.
- City officials – to help plan their response to natural disasters such as an earthquake or hurricane. GIS maps can show these officials what neighborhoods are most in danger, where to locate shelters, and what routes people should take to reach safety.
- Scientists – to compare population growth to resources such as drinking water, or to try to determine a region’s future needs for public services like parking, roads, and electricity. (National Geographic)