What is GIS?

GIS is an industry short form for "Geographical Information System", a computerized system comprised of hardware, software, data, specialized personnel and training. This system is used to store, retrieve, manipulate, query, analyze and report on information.

A GIS uses geography (real world coordinates) as the common key between data sets. It combines spatial information (describing the location and shape of a geographic feature and its relationship to other features) with descriptive (tabular) information about the feature.

Every feature stored answers three main questions:

  • What is it?
  • Where is it located?
  • How does it relate to other features?

A GIS is not simply a computer system for map creation. It is an analysis tool which incorporates graphics with a database management system. It is the making of smart maps and is used in almost all sectors of government in one form or another.