The Increasing Use of GIS for Social Good

Rachel Smith, Applied Technology Review | Sunday, March 14, 2021

GIS is re-engineering the vision of the world and solving problems in novel ways as a result of the digital revolution and the rapid growth of remote sensing technologies.

 Geographic information systems (GIS), computer systems that collect, store, and display data about geographic locations, have developed into a highly effective tool. The development of remote sensing technology, such as satellite-based observations and global positioning systems, has simplified creating geographical datamore than ever before. 

GIS can be utilized for disaster surveillance (e.g., coronavirus illness), forecasting and warning systems for hazards, and asset management. They are also used to plan the spatial configuration of river basins. A geographic information system-generated project atlas containing the project's plan, location, and components can reveal more than traditional methods. Additionally, it enables establishing an all-in-one project communication platform or channel.

Numerous geographic information system technologies have spatial and volumetric analysis capabilities, which can supplement traditional spatial analysis techniques such as watershed modeling, optimize investment decisions, and improve disaster risk and effect assessments.

Additionally, a GIS platform enables easy development benchmarking and project performance monitoring over time. Land-use changes, demographic changes, infrastructure development, and disaster effect reduction can all be compared through time using time-series geospatial data.

Numerous research institutes, independent researchers, and a few international agencies produce georeferenced technical (e.g., land-use), environmental, climatic, and socioeconomic (e.g., demographic) data using analog or digital data. The majority are derived from satellite observations, which assist in overcoming conventional constraints associated with gathering regional and transboundary data. Many have also been calibrated and certified, allowing them to be used "as is" without requiring any special skills or fees.

Numerous space organizations and affiliates also supply commercially available remote sensing data tailored to individual purposes and objectives. The correctness of these data is contingent upon several things. Many government planners and practitioners are either unaware of or unable to use these data sources due to a lack of basic skills.

As a result, time and other resources dedicated to data gathering and analysis account for a significant amount of spending. Despite these benefits, expenditures in geographic data collection and creation and the development of associated basic skills have not yet been prioritized in development practice.

From reputable third-party sources, high-resolution geospatial data spanning most sectors—transportation, agricultural, energy, urban, socioeconomic (primarily census), water, and the environment—are available. Global land-use data are now publicly and commercially available at various spatial resolutions and periods, allowing for easy comparison and application in spatial planning, which was previously nearly impossible.

Many countries also have geocoded or easily geocoded census data at various levels of administrative borders. Local administrative/political boundaries are also accessible, and some are updated with census data.

A global disaster database, global dam and reservoir data, ecological regions, world conservation sites, indigenous peoples' locations, and climate change data, both historical and projected, are also available in geocoded forms provided by numerous governments, researchers, and international organizations. To use these ready-made data sets, only basic computer skills are required.

Numerous single-sector mapping, data storage, filing, and other data interpretation and analysis duties can be eliminated using GIS applications. The GIS technology is complicated, but its implementation is easy. The convergence of GIS and cloud computing technologies has had a major effect on using spatial applications and information, including disaster and pandemic response, almost in real-time. Technologies are always improving, and the data presented is adjusted as technologies improve.

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