What Is 'GIS'?


Definition of 'GIS'?
‘GIS’ is an abbreviation for 'Geographic Information System'.
Although there are many definitions of what a GIS is, the Provincial Spatial Information Management Unit for the Province of the Eastern Cape has adopted the following definition:
'a computer-based tool used to store, overlay and distribute spatial data of the same geographical area to be able to apply manipulation, queries, analyse and presentation of the data to enhance decision making'
There are five main aspects that make up a GIS, namely:
- Hardware
- Software
- Data
- Personnel
- Processes
What is Spatial Information (Geographic Information)?
Information that is location based (spatial) and can be mapped. It generally involves:
- 'WHAT' (features, facilities, objects, assets)
- 'WHERE' (addresses, coordinates)
What GIS is NOT...
A GIS is not simply a computer system used only for making maps.
- A GIS is an analytical tool, used to identify and present relationships between map and attribute data.
A GIS is not a tool that stores maps, images or views of a geographic area.
- A GIS is a tool that stores data from which maps, images and views can be displayed through analyses and processes.
Benefits of a GIS
- Better management of assets and utilisation/deployment of assets
- Shared access of spatial information, thus reducing duplication of data, systems, software, staff, and other related cost items
- Facilitation of interoperability between departmental systems and functions
- Ability to perform drill-down analyses using a variety of datasets
General Questions a GIS can answer
- Location - Where is an asset?
- Condition - What is the asset?
- Patterns - How are the assets distributed?
- Trends - What has changed since...?
- Modelling - What if...?