GIS – Not Just for Programmers or Tech Savvy

Everyday there seems to be a new technology and new service that is being tested out. Many times, they involve geo-locational services as well, and running behind the scenes and helping to power the technology is Geographic Information Systems (GIS). GIS is not just for programmers or coders, there are dozens of applications of GIS that can help the non-tech community as well.

I remember sitting in a presentation early this year watching an ESRI Demo, and nearly instantly, the presenter was able to create a report identifying the best spot to place windmills in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Boston. The service allows people to simply check the information they want, and ESRI takes care of the rest. This example is one of many showing the impact of using GIS for improved decision making.

I recently read a
report from ESRI,
Maps Improve Gov 2.0, which was an interesting read highlighting how multifaceted GIS is, and how deep the impact of GIS technology has been within government. The report states, “GIS can help determine crime trends, or where to put wind turbines and solar panels. Maps can show valuable data on rising sea levels, or paths of hurricanes. They can help government determine where to spend money on levees, dams, roads and more.

These are just a few examples of how GIS can impact government. There was one passage in particular that really got me thinking about GIS technology. “Citizens become much more engaged when a map shows them what’s happening in their own neighborhoods. GIS makes that possible. People easily understand maps, which leads to better discussion around an issue. “With GIS, citizens can see how government is performing and use that information for better decision- making,” noted Dangermond. GIS allows data to be analyzed, shared and discussed in ways that were never possible before.”

This could not be more true. One the biggest challenges for government is making sense of large volumes of data and communicating information to citizens. Further, there are more kinds of data being created than ever before, with citizens using more devices, and finding new ways to engage with government agencies. In many instances, citizens might want the quick and dirty, a quick visual representation about the impact of legislation, a policy decision and the impact within their neighborhood. At other times, programmers or developers might want the data to develop applications. It is balancing both interests that are important, and GIS can help meet both interests for citizens.

I’d encourage you to take a read of the 
report. It will definitely show you that GIS is not just for the programmers and tech savvy. As the technology continues to improve, and GIS becomes even more mainstream, it will be fun to watch the impact GIS is having within government, allowing agencies to make improved decisions and provide higher quality services for citizens.

You can also watch a great video from Jack Dangermond, Founder of ESRI, talking about Gov 2.0 and GIS technology.

For some great examples of how government is using geographic information system (GIS) technology, check out GovLoop’s guide, “Identifying the Promise of GIS for Government.”

What are some of your favorite examples of GIS?


Esri was founded in 1969, it realized even then that geographic information system (GIS) technology could make a difference in society. GIS helps people to solve problems at local, regional, national, and global scales. Access maps and apps at ArcGIS.com. Check out the
Communications & Citizen Engagement Sub-Community of which they are a
council member.

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