It is an acronym for Geographic Information System. A special kind of information system distinguished by its use of spatially referenced data. GIS can also be defined as a computer based information system with the following components:
- Data input – manual digitization or scanning.
- Data management – data storage, updating, retrieval, backup, exchange and archiving
- Data manipulation, analysis and modeling.
- Data and information output and dissemination.
It was developed in the late 1960’s primarily as an environmental application and currently it acts as a Decision Support System (tool) with wide applications e.g. Land Management, Disaster Response, Business Development, Farm management, Pest/Disease tracking, Crop monitoring, Yield prediction and Soil analysis.
Information has always been the cornerstone of effective decisions. Spatial information is particularly complex as it requires two descriptors—Where is what. For thousands of years the link between the two descriptors has been the traditional, manually drafted map involving pens, rub-on shading, rulers, planimeters, dot grids, and acetate sheets. Its historical use was for navigation through unfamiliar terrain and seas, emphasizing the accurate location of physical features.
Many people may be having the question ‘why GIS?’ the reason why GIS is applied almost in almost all fields today is because maps unlock many of the answers deep inside a database enabling one to discover data richness, they are ideal because of the spatial component making it a critical tool for analysis, also a Map is a powerful language as it presents Information in a table vis a vis a map, and it also provide wider applications e.g. 3D Mapping or Visualization.
There many changes that have taken place in the processing environment one of them being the forms of display. It is now beyond the historical 2D planimetric paper map. Today, one is able to display spatial information on a 3D view of the terrain. Virtual reality can transform the information from polygons to rendered objects of trees, lakes and buildings for near photographic realism. Immersive imaging enables the user to interactively pan and zoom in all directions within a display. Analysis of mapped data has become an important part of understanding and managing geographic space. This new perspective marks a turning point in the use of maps from one emphasizing physical description of geographic space, to one of interpreting mapped data, combining map layers and finally, to spatially characterizing and communicating complex spatial relationships. This movement from “where is what” (descriptive) to “so what and why” (prescriptive) has set the stage for entirely new geospatial concepts and tools.
The importance of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can hardly be overemphasized in today’s academic and professional arena. More professionals and academics have been using GIS than ever – urban & regional planners, civil engineers, geographers, spatial economists, sociologists, environmental scientists, criminal justice professionals, political scientists, and alike.
GIS has proved to have ability to solve many problems affecting the humanity today and therefore there is need for it to be taught in institutions in
All departments not only in Geospatial fields. This will help our country to solve issues such as insecurity, famine, flooding and urban planning to avoid congestion .It will also help in improving the economy of our country through its application in tourism management and identification of location of businesses where maximum profit can be made.
By Winny Cherono,
Fourth Year, Geospatial Engineering