What is Geographic Information System (GIS) ?

Concept of Geographic Information System

In today’s modern world most of the decisions involving planning and development are based on consideration of the information available regarding location or geographic information. such information regarding location is usually referred to as Geographic Information System or GIS.

Geographic Information System should include not only the data processing functions of these systems, but also their analytical capabilities for deriving spatial knowledge and intelligence as well.

Scope of Geographic Information System :

Geographic Information System is a computer based information system of all forms of geographically referenced information to perform the following data tasks.

  • Capture required information.
  • Store the information in the form of digital data.
  • Update the data as necessary.
  • Manipulate data appropriate to the task.
  • Analyse the various items of data and to secure desired ends.
  • Display data and output in appropriate form according to the needs.

Thus Geographic Information System enables us to understand the universe around us in a better way and to meet the challenges for a happy living. GIS is an organized selection of computer hardware, software and geographic data designed to carry out the above tasks in an efficient way.

Types of Geographic Information System

Geographic Information System

Spatial Information :

The information regarding location and shape of the geographic features comes under spatial information. This is again subdivided into three kinds :

  • Point features.
  • Line features.
  • Areal features.

A map object which is too small in size and has a discrete location is usually represented as a point feature. A map object which has a narrow and long shape and not big enough to be represented by an area comes under a line feature. Example : roadway, railway, canal, sewer line, water line etc.

A map object which has a boundary enclosing a homogeneous area is represented as an area information. Example : reservoir, desert, large water body, hills, state or country etc.

Attribute Information :

This kind of information relates to the descriptive, qualitative and quantitative features. It may have elements which may not permit comparison of one with another. Example : Ownership details, soil classification, rainfall details, seismic zones etc.

Time Information :

Geographic Information System may either become obsolete or change in nature as time passes. Hence time forms a very important dimension of geographic information. Geographic information related to a particular place or region is known as regional information. Geographic information based on any particular theme of earth feature is referred to as thematic information.

Thematic information can relate to physical characteristics such as land forms, climatic patterns, distribution of minerals and ores, hydrology, seismic activity etc. Another kind of thematic information will be related to human activity and their relationships such as political, economic, cultural, historic, demographic details etc.

Purpose of GIS 

Geographic Information System is a multidisciplinary technology comprising information technology, systems engineering, surveying and photogrammetry, remote sensing, cartography, geography, socio-economic activity, computer technology etc. It is not just data processing, information management or map projection but the ability to handle large multilayered and heterogeneous data base. It has the ability to handle large multilayered and heterogeneous data base.

It has become on indispensable tool to achieve the purpose mentioned below.

  • Enabling decision making based on spatial data.
  • Supporting research and development.
  • Collecting, manipulating and using spatial data in data base management,
  • Producing standardized and customized cartographic production.

Applications of Geographic Information System

GIS has wide application in different fields of human activity. Some of these are enumerated below.

Environmental Planning :

  • Identifying and evaluating environmental hazards.
  • Management of share line of country.
  • Mapping flood zones.
  • Monitoring air/water quality.
  • Locating suitable places for disposal of industrial and sanitary wastes.

Management of National Mineral and Natural Sources : 

  • Detecting trends of ecological imbalance.
  • Preparing schemes for protecting flora and fauna.
  • Exploring oil and mineral wealth.
  • Rehabilitating sites of minimum activity.
  • Monitoring impact of extraction of natural resources.
Also Read : Global Positioning System { GPS } in Surveying

Emergency Relief :

  • Assessing extent and scale of magnitude of disasters caused by earth quakes, fire, floods, natural causes, blow outs, rioting, war, terrorist activity etc.
  • Planning for rehabilitation and succor.
  • Prediction and warning of likely hazards and evacuation and routing.

Transport Planning :

  • Designing and constructing highways.
  • Monitoring and navigation of fleet.
  • Identifying accident prone areas.
  • Optimizing routes based on demand and supply.
  • Identifying zones vulnerable to flood damage etc.

Business Application : 

  • Market research and market survey.
  • Assessing customer preferences and requirements.
  • Identifying centers to position distributors and stockists.
  • Real estate investment and management etc.

Local Administration : 

  • Monitoring land use and growth.
  • Census operations.
  • Preparing cadastral maps.
  • Maintenance and construction of water supply, sewerage, electric and gas lines etc.
  • Tax management.
  • Engineering surveys.

Socio-economic Development :

  • Population analysis and studies.
  • Forecasting socio economic changes.
  • Assessing impact of population on environment.

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