All about Geographic Information System (GIS)

By: Anish Khan

Geographical information system (GIS) is used for storing, managing, analyzing, manipulating, and displaying data that is geo-referenced. The power of GIS lies in how it puts knowledge into geographic context. Applications include monitoring water quality or contamination levels at swimming beaches, an analysis of the census to see if there are clusters of people without health insurance, determining which areas are most prone to natural hazards such as floods or landslides [1].

What is Geographic Information Systems?

A Geographic Information System (GIS) uses computer and spatial analysis to collect and analyze geographic data, mostly for spatial decision-making. It usually stores from large scale data about relief, atmosphere, population, agricultural management at down to very fine scale data about soil types or city blocks [2]. Decision makers can use the information to design services for a specific area.

Types of Geographic Information System

When it comes to mapping, GIS is a discipline that’s been around a lot longer than a lot of us know. With a solid understanding of GIS today, humans have been collecting all sorts of data about the world and retaining it with powerful database systems for decades now.  There are four main types of GIS [3-5]:

  1. Raster: Rasters map the world as a matrix of squares with precise information about each square’s location.
  2. Vector: Vector maps use mathematical equations to plot points on a mathematical grid so that they have precise positions in relation to one another.
  3. Shapefile: Shapefiles plot points relative to their location on a map but also show where those layers overlap with other maps.
  4. Image: An image map as it depicts land as square pixels arranged as an image.

How does Geographic Information System work?

Information is recorded into GIS using geographic coordinate systems. The GIS then adds that map into its data management system to enable users to pinpoint up-to-date information about that area.

GIS can be used for spatial analysis, map production, access to remote sensing data, and location intelligence. GIS is a powerful tool for understanding and shaping human interactions with geography. Data can be collected from a variety of sources and given a spatial dimension, which means it’s easy to manipulate, explore, and map [6]. The technology itself takes on a number of different forms, developing hand-intime as technology advances every day! The GIS system takes raw geospatial data and converts it into usable geographic knowledge as shown in figure 1. The user can use different types of locational data, including maps, satellite imagery, geographical measurements, historical photographic records, or field photos for whatever he or she needs.

Geographic Information System
Figure 1: GIS Data Model [11]

Other important features include the ability to generate visual elements for display on a screen or handset, overlay data sets to compare relationships, answer questions about an area of interest, measure spatial relationships between items in the digital environment, create animations based on movement tracked over time [7].

Applications of Geographic Information System

GIS is the process of taking actual geospatial data and mapping it with technology. With GIS, every geographical feature created on the map, is assigned a certain digital property- usually coordinates to designate its location [8].

Mostly used for land surveys, land use planning, disaster management social sciences, geography education and disease control these found applications demonstrate why GIS continues to expand in relevance [9]. A GIS is a scientific technique used to store, manage and analyze different classes of digital geospatial data. Improved society and economy and the availability and use of big data analysis tools have prompted a fundamental change in how many organizations approach information, strategic planning and decision making [10].


Geographic Information Systems have been around for a long time. They have allowed the creation of maps and other information systems for farming, policing, business, smart cities, and many other things to deal with space and positioning.


  1. Chang, K. T. (2016). Geographic information system. International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment and Technology: People, the Earth, Environment and Technology, 1-9.
  2. Cooperative, G. I., & Collins, F. (1988). The unique qualities of a geographic information system: a commentary. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, 54(11), 1547-9.
  3. Tomlinson, R. F. (2007). Thinking about GIS: geographic information system planning for managers (Vol. 1). ESRI, Inc..
  4. Koller, D., Lindstrom, P., Ribarsky, W., Hodges, L. F., Faust, N., & Turner, G. (1995, October). Virtual GIS: A real-time 3D geographic information system. In Proceedings Visualization’95 (pp. 94-100). IEEE.
  5. Chrisman, N. R. (1983). The role of quality information in the long-term functioning of a geographic information system. In Proceedings of International Symposium on Automated Cartography (Auto Carto 6) (pp. 303-321).
  6. Antenucci, J. C., Brown, K., Croswell, P. L., Kevany, M. J., & Archer, H. (1991). Geographic Information Systems: a guide to the technology.
  7. Hess, R. L., Rubin, R. S., & West Jr, L. A. (2004). Geographic information systems as a marketing information system technology. Decision Support Systems, 38(2), 197-212.
  8. Guanfu, S., & Ershun, Z. (1998). Research and Development of Components Geographic Information Systems [J]. Journal of Image and Graphics, 4.
  9. Liu, D. S., Iverson, L. R., & Brown, S. (1993). Rates and patterns of deforestation in the Philippines: application of geographic information system analysis. Forest Ecology and Management, 57(1-4), 1-16.
  10. Okan, E. R. A. Y. (2012). Application of geographic information system (GIS) in education. Journal of Technical Science and Technologies, 53-58.

Cite this article:

Anish Khan (2021) All about Geographic Information System (GIS), Insights2Tecinfo, pp.1

Also Read

32520cookie-checkAll about Geographic Information System (GIS)
Share this:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.