What in the world is GIS?

Whether you realize it or not, you likely have been exposed to GIS technology in some way.
Be it by looking for directions on MapQuest or Yahoo! Maps, using a GPS unit to plot your favourite fishing spots, using an internal navigation system in your vehicle, or watching the extended forecast on The Weather Network, GIS is a part of daily life.
For those of us who use it on a daily basis, GIS is an extremely important tool to assist with our workloads.
What exactly is GIS? Geographic Information Systems is a collection of tools ranging from computer hardware and software to trained personnel that’s used to create, store, update, manipulate, analyze, retrieve, and display geographic data.
In essence, a GIS is simply a way in which the real world is stored and used within a computer-generated space. With the right data and a GIS, users can create and run models to simulate real world events.
From this, events such as landslides, storms, wildfires, and crime incidences can be modelled before or after they have taken place to determine possible outcomes and current situations.
More information on GIS can be found at websites such as www.gis.com, www.esri.com, or www.gislounge.com
All around the world, more and more people are using GIS to make good geographic decisions. GIS is used every day in numerous industries, including forestry, natural resources management, environmental management, hydroelectricity, oil and gas, emergency services, education, crime investigations, educational facilities, and city governments.
For example, city governments can use GIS to determine land ownership, the placement of new roads or signs, and the location of municipal services such as fire hydrants and sewer lines.
The forestry industry, meanwhile, can use it to explore cut blocks, regeneration areas, and areas to harvest.
The use of GIS for emergency services is evident in larger centers, as most emergency response vehicles now are equipped with a mobile GIS interface which can assist in the location of addresses, water and gas lines, and access points to reduce response time.
GIS Day, what’s that? GIS Day was created as a way in which GIS vendors and users could showcase real-world applications of GIS to the general public.
Through this, different industries can get together to exhibit their work and highlight the importance of GIS technology.
2006 marks the eighth anniversary of GIS Day, which originated as part of the National Geographic Society’s Geography Action initiative, begun in 1998, and is co-sponsored by the National Geographic Society, the Association of American Geographers, University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, the United States Geological Survey, the Library of Congress, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett–Packard, and ESRI.
For more information on GIS Day, visit the GIS Day website at www.gisday.com
This is the first in a series of four articles about Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in recognition of GIS Day on Wednesday, Nov. 15.
An open house is scheduled from noon-6 p.m. at Fort Frances High School to showcase how GIS is used by local businesses and other organizations.
This event is being co-ordinated and sponsored by Abitibi-Consolidated Company of Canada, the Town of Fort Frances, Rainy River First Nations, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and the Rainy River District School Board, with co-operation from the Fort Frances Times.
For more information on the upcoming GIS Day, contact Jordan Shannon at 482-2489 ext. 250 or Trish Law at 274-9893.

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