GIS and local authorities (1) – The background

To set the background
for the  Geographical  Information
Systems (GIS)   at the heart of  various local authorities , we
must start by defining the term GIS.
There are many different definitions of GIS.

Michel Didier definition
at the  Geographical Information National
Council , 1990 is as follows : “a GIS
is a set of spatial data that allows for the easy extraction of key
information for decision making. The  Federal Inter- Agency Coordination for Digital Cartography
Digital  Committee (USA-1988)
reads: · “a GIS is a computer hardware, software and process  system designed to enable the collection, management, manipulation, analysis, modelling of the reference spatial data
to solve complex planning and management problems. ”



The difference
between both definitions ? The second explicitly states that a GIS is a computer system. However an information system  does not imply being computerized . If we consider the first definition
as it is , the old cadastre management as  paper sheets is, undoubtedly, part  of the
Town Hall information:   when the user needed  the map of his plot he left the Town Hall with
a photocopy of the cadastral
map!
When I hear a territorial manager say “We
will set up a GIS  
I start to make him understand there is,
already, and that the proper
sentence is ”   We will computerize our current GIS   “.

Being fussy? Not quite.
In the first case we make an unconscious obliteration
of the existing one, not at
the document level , but at a personal level
. The newcomer is fully entitled and it is up to each one to give in to its operation
. The second version places the new system
as an evolution of the pre-existing : data , staff, working methods
. It’s up to the software to take into account this reality and adapt to it. The context of both versions is diametrically opposite .

The contribution of GIS software is to enable a global vision of the territories by offering tools allowing the integration of textual
and  quantified databases with the
adequate cartographic background . This integration allows a new vision of the territory , richer, more synthetic
, more operational .
When a local authority computerises its GIS, the main goals are :

  •  
    optimizing the territory
    administration  by
    means of the information ”  
    localisation   » whether geographical or not,
  • viewing
    the results of  different budget or regulatory scenarios
  • planning and land use,
  • appropriation of territorial map information,
     whether external as the cadastre, the networks , or internal such as
    the PLU, the roadworks , the green spaces , the heritage ,
  • the communication to third parties, to other territorial structures such as  the public of information.

To complete
the background of setting up a
computerized GIS on a territory it must be highlighted that this project   is, always, conceived
in association with others
partners :
neighboring local authorities, agents networks,
etc., mainly to share the
starting investiment and to make a better use of the available local skills. The resulting project becomes an exchange crossroads and mutual
knowledge among the partners.   The data system is, generally, formed in the public context and become very quickly an element of the community’s heritage,
available for multiple value-creations.

In the next article, we will discuss the contributions of a computerization of the GIS
for a Local Authority .

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