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Geographical Information Systems (GIS)

( Article Type: Explanation )

GIS is essentially a set of computer-based software systems (database and mapping techniques combined) that allow managers, decision-makers and scientists to look at spatial data (information that often appears on maps) in new ways.

It can be used to manage utilities such as water and sewage mains, roads, power lines, or help to understand relationships between different issues ‘on the ground’ (e.g. areas of high population and the location of amenities such as schools and clinics).
Different ‘sets’ (or types) of data and information can be ‘mixed’ on the computer to see what types of overlaps or parallels there may be.

It is also possible to identify problems. For example, one set of data may map the flows of smoke from a factory chimney and, superimposed over a land use map, it would be possible to identify what residential areas would be affected by the smoke from the chimney.

Using the mapping capabilities of GIS information, it is possible to represent facts and circumstances in real life and make predictions about the likely outcome of changing events or different circumstances.