It is estimated that approximately 80% of all information has a "spatial" or geographic component. In other words, most information is tied to a place. So when making decisions about siting new facilities, creating hiking trails, protecting wetlands, directing emergency response vehicles, designating historic neighborhoods or redrawing legislative districts, geography plays a significant role.
This is where GIS comes in. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology is a computer-based data collection, storage, and analysis tool that combines previously unrelated information into easily understood maps. But GIS is much more than maps. A GIS can perform complicated analytical functions and then present the results visually as maps, tables or graphs, allowing decision-makers to virtually see the issues before them and then select the best course of action.
Add the Internet, and GIS offers a consistent and cost-effective means for the sharing and analysis of geographic data among government agencies, private industry, non-profit organizations, and the general public.