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Top 10 Benefits of GIS Technology

There is so much that you can do with a GIS technology, the most common example is making layers with data showing all sorts of different variables of a community to help inform decision makers and inform the public. For example, my hometown of Syracuse could really use (and publicize) housing information. A useful application would be to see how many vacant houses are in the city, and map that with educational levels, income, etc. This data hopefully exists somewhere in the city, but making a visual representation and sharing with the public, will help drive action and inform decisions.

GIS has multiple applications, one area we are seeing a lot of impact is in crisis management. During an emergency, officials need to be able to quickly connect and collaborate with each other. This is now easier to do than ever before with modern technology. With GIS technology, information can be instantly shared and updated in real-time – this information allows decision makers to improve their decision making during a crisis and allocate resources to the proper locations.

At all levels of government, GIS can be used to help improve transparency, identify at risk communities and be used to help manage critical resources of the community.

But that’s just the start, here are my Top 10 benefits of GIS:

  1. Improved decision by government officials
  2. Instantaneous collaboration through the cloud
  3. Layer complex data to drive improve decision making
  4. Improved transparency for citizen engagement
  5. Identify at-risk or under-served populations within a community
  6. Improved allocation of resources and planning
  7. Management of natural resources
  8. Improved communications during a crisis
  9. Cost savings by improved decision making
  10. Planning for demographic changes to community

I know there are many other benefits of GIS, so what are some other benefits of GIS technology?

When 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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Andrew K Kirk

We use GIS data at CitySourced to power our mobile app. Our reports are geolocated, which makes it much easier for citizens to accurately report civic works issues, such as potholes, graffiti, and illegal dumping. What’s great is that it eliminates the guess work of identifying the location of issues.

Pat Fiorenza

Great information, Andrew. Sometimes I forget the tech behind all the great mobile apps, GIS obviously plays a central role.

Keith O'Brien

I usually work with business sales who want to use GIS to increase productivity. However, recently worked with a municipality on a project that will help them more accurately document and follow Gypsy Moth infestation.


I’m interested in getting into GIS. What steps would you recommend I take? In December, I downloaded the free trial of ArcGIS, and got a book that took me through much of it. But clearly, there’s much more to learn. I’ve been told to learn python and processing, etc, which I’m going to start doing.

What steps did you take to get into it? Geography degree?


Brian Dowling

Seems to me that you have the makings of a series for future blog posts. Each of the ten could be gone into deeper. How can you use GIS for improving decision making by government officials? Who is doing it? Those reiterating the benefits of GIS are already doing it but do most out there really understand the potential?

Jo Youngblood

I love GIS so please don’t take this the wrong way, but you have to be extremely careful when utilizing GIS in evaluating “under-served” populations or areas. For instance we did a project for a state agency to evaluate whether there were sufficient service providers in a particular area. The GIS mapping was fine and it provided the impact we needed for the audience to understand the results we found. However, the database that listed all the service providers was lacking – substantially. The database had restrictions that it only provided listings of non-profit service providers (so for profit even those that used sliding scale fees and would charge low income clients nothing were excluded). Further service providers had to seek out being registered. As a result, in areas where GIS reflected there were service gaps – after closer inspection it turns out there really weren’t service gaps. Always scrutinize your source when using GIS to evaluate resource deployments.

Pat Fiorenza

Thanks everyone for the comments!

@Brian – Sounds like you have taken a lot of great steps! I attended an ESRI user conference and read a lot of materials online related to GIS and implications on government. Although I am interested, I do not really spend a lot of time focus on the coding and tech side of the GIS. I am more interested in how the technology can be leveraged. My degree is in Public Administration. I’d keep on coding, keep on reading and attend a couple of GIS events in your area if you can get to them. I know a lot of people who have just started coding and go to hack-a-thons or meetups coding related — seem to be a big help for them.

@Brian – Sounds like you’re reading my mind…I think those are great and important questions related to GIS. I’ll for sure explore them in some further posts. Great discussion questions.

@Jo – I couldn’t agree more with your comments. I think really what you are getting at is that GIS requires great data behind it. To often as decision makers, we look at the wrong data, flawed data and we may go through a great process to come to a decision, but it’s based on biased/wrong data. You bring up some great points about how GIS is often a part of a larger strategy – need to have good data and be sure you’re looking at the right data. That’s an interesting example too..thanks for the comments.

Andrew K Kirk


What technology did the group use to track Gypsy Moths? Also, was it only government employees or did they crowdsource and use the general population? Thanks!

Keith O'Brien

Hi Andrew –

They were looking for a low-cost portable solution they could use for field tallying of Gypsy Moth infestation data on laptops. They ended up customizing a solution from MapWindow.org They used Pharos USB GPS recievers for laptop location. For actual field tabulation, they used only government employees.

These folks are in Michigan. Drop me a line with your location and contact info and I’ll forward on to them if you’d like more info. I know they were pretty excited about it as it was significantly less costly than other field recording solutions they were looking at.

Audrey Hudak

Very interesting post Pat! I am an MPA student considering adding a certificate in GIS. Do you think this would be beneficial? Give me an “edge” in the job market?