VOL. 118 | NO. 206 | Friday, November 12, 2004
GIS Opens Doors in Many Industries
Local leaders come together to share GIS uses, ideas
The Daily News
When the space shuttle Columbia broke up over the state of
Texas nearly two years ago, it was a devastating day in this nations history.
Piecing together the wreckage could have been an impossible
endeavor if not for geographic information systems. GIS is a system of computer
software, hardware and data used to manipulate, analyze and present information
tied to a spatial location. It is used by a wide variety of industries and
And now, a study of the use of GIS in the Columbia search
and recovery process is making its way to Memphis, part of the citys GIS Day
That will be one of the really wow, cool things, said
Della Adams, director of data systems and information for the Memphis Regional
Chamber and coordinator of GIS Day.
Jeffrey Williams of Stephen F. Austin State University will
present Search and Recovery of the Space Shuttle
Columbia: A Case Study of GIS First Responders at a keynote luncheon for the
event, which runs from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday at Holiday Inn-University of
Memphis, 3700 Central Ave.
Coming together. GIS
Day, which has been held for three years in Memphis, gives individuals involved
in GIS technology in Shelby County a rare opportunity
to come together. Most cities and government entities use GIS in some form. But
a countywide GIS network is not yet in service.
There is nobody working toward signing agreements except
for emergency services, where all the municipalities and all the emergency service
providers in the county would be playing off the same sheet of music as far as
municipal boundary, said Richard Stieg, deputy
director of planning and economic development for Bartlett.
However, GIS systems are in use in Tipton and DeSoto counties
and work quite well, officials said.
What was in place before was nothing paper maps in individual
offices so any sort of coordinated effort is better, said Sam Russell,
director of the 4-year-old DeSoto County GIS department. We have zoning information
for Olive Branch and for DeSoto County, and so rather than going to two places
to find the information, you can find it in one place.
The information is on the Web and accessible to anyone.
The system is of great benefit to smaller communities, such
as Bartlett, where GIS has been in use since 1988.
A small town that is not going to hire a dozen people for
engineering and planning has to have some way of accessing data sets to do
their planning, keep up with zoning and for fire response, Stieg
said. GIS is a computer tool, so if you have a computer-literate staff, you
can cut down on the number of people you need.
GIS importance. In
Bartlett, GIS technology was used to help draw the recently opened St. Francis
Hospital to the city. In applying for a certificate of need, Stieg used GIS to do a travel analysis for emergency
services, showing the lack of ambulance service within a 15-minute drive.
Its a great economic tool, he said.
GIS technology also helped in bringing the Vancouver
Grizzlies to Memphis. The Memphis Regional Chamber created a series of maps displaying
demographic data to show that the Memphis market was in an NBA void.
GIS Day, an annual grassroots event held to showcase
real-world applications of the technology, is sponsored by the National
Geographic Society. Locally, the conference is intended to bring industry
leaders together in an educational atmosphere. Each year, the event draws about
200 attendees ranging from high school and college students to decision makers
in government agencies to GIS professionals.
New group. This
years conference is sponsored by the Memphis Area Geographic Information
Council, which recently formed to give GIS professionals an outlet to come
together to promote their experiences.
Adams is vice president and president-elect of MAGIC, which currently
has 50 members who will hold a business meeting at the close of the conference.
Its a diverse group, Adams said. GIS professionals,
unlike, say, system analysts or database administrators, do not have their own
association to promote their own profession.
MAGIC meets on a regular basis for educational purposes.
Its about how to do your job better, Adams said. Another
goal is to promote the use and especially the collaborative use of GIS between
all of the government agencies. We all have the same goal and objective, and
that is to promote efficiency and productiveness within city government