GIS: Not just a tool for Land and Asset Management
The importance of geospatial information, management of geospatial data through Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the impact they have at a national level has increased.
There are currently two landmark projects underway in Greece: the Unified Digital Map and the National Infrastructure Register. Both projects have GIS and geospatial data at their core and are going to completely transform the way government manages spatial information, by offering a wealth of services to both the public and potential investors.
The Unified Digital Map will enable quick and easy access to all land and property information, to anyone who is interested in investing in an area. This way, he or she can easily decide if the investment is financially viable or not.
The National Infrastructure Register will be able to store and manage major projects and strategic infrastructure assets in a single database. Moreover, this geospatially-enabled database, with the use of IoT technologies, will provide the means for constant monitoring of all assets in almost real time so the respective government organizations can easier plan short, medium and long-term maintenance regimes.
However, despite that the focus on all things “geo” is currently on land, property and infrastructure, GIS is an extremely powerful tool with capabilities that can be applied to multiple sectors of government.
Some of them are listed below:
1. Health and Education
GIS provides solutions to both sectors with its ability to collect data for any physical or non-physical object or event and linking it to its corresponding geographic location. These objects/events can for example be households in a specific postal code or number of health facilities within an area. The use of postal codes in government planning is common among several sectors of public service.
For instance, Local Councils and Education Directorates could use demographics coupled with geospatial data, so that they can create a clear picture of the possible locations where new schools are going to be built (also known as “location-allocation”). The Greek Ministry of Education already uses something similar (albeit in beta version), using the “Artemis” system. You can find it here.
GIS is also crucial to Health Services, due to its application in disease outbreaks. GIS for government health services provides responsible insight that can pinpoint outbreaks of an illness or disease. A geospatial mapping system could, for example, depict where diseases are detected and define high-risk areas. A very close-to-home example is the COVID-19 maps, that we see every day on the news.
2. Emergency Services – Civil Protection and GIS
Civil protection can use geospatial data to plan emergency responses and coordinate the efforts and resources of several teams more effectively.
Officials can for example, identify the best location for a temporary hospital construction, based on several factors such as access to utility networks, distance from road networks, land terrain, etc.
GIS can create maps that can run what-if scenarios, identify evacuation routes and alternative solutions. It can also provide precise maps of each area, so that emergency services will know where to send the first responders and civilians will know which areas to avoid.
The game-changing advantage of geospatial data in emergency services, is its ability to be combined with data coming from other services. For instance, when civil protection data and Hellenic Statistical Authority data are combined, we can easily find which areas have the highest density of senior citizens or schools.
3. Financial Services
GIS also has a role to play in the financial sector. Government agencies can use GIS as a multifaceted source of data of past and current economic conditions.
GIS used in real estate, can create maps, monitor current data and refer to past data. Having a variety of data in their hands, government agencies use GIS to extract valuable financial information and assist in the decision-making process of a city or even the country.
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