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VOL. 118 | NO. 206 | Friday, November 12, 2004

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GIS day

GIS Opens Doors in Many Industries

Local leaders come together to share GIS uses, ideas

LANCE ALLAN

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 government agencies.

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 2004 Conference.

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 utilizing GIS.

 

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