Guest Column | November 15, 2021

Innovative Ways Municipalities Use GIS

By Tania Holembovska


Geographic information systems have long been widely used to solve problems of state and municipal administration. There are many examples of successful and poor implementation of GIS in the practice of the respective bodies. Of course, the effectiveness of using GIS is determined by many factors, and probably, not only by choosing software from one or vendor.

However, the very ability to implement the required functions, build a full-fledged information system, integrate it into the existing information infrastructure, and implement and provide technical support for solutions essentially depends on the properties and quality of the GIS software. Visit this website to learn more about such instruments and the benefits they offer for governments.

GIS technology provides a means to display and understand what occurs in one specific or many locations, provides tools for modeling resources, identifying relationships, processes, dependencies, examples, threats, and risks. These capabilities allow for seeing what is happening and where, measuring the size and magnitude of an event or impact, jointly analyzing a variety of data, developing plans, and ultimately helping decide what steps and actions to take.

The ability of GIS to integrate spatial and nonspatial data, together with analysis and process modeling functions, allows for using this technology as a common platform for integrating business processes among departments, activities, and disciplines across the city or regional governments.

GIS enables authorities to increase transparency in their relationship with citizens via offering opportunities for data capture, manipulation, and analysis in a geographical format. Today, citizens can engage with their governments in advanced and modern technological ways, making this process much faster and easier. Let’s see how that works and in what affairs or domains.

Public Reporting

An approach to the provision of software and information products at the municipal level, based on centralized services, partially eliminates the need to install software or data resources wherever there is a need for them. This approach falls into a direction called service-oriented architecture. In its development, GIS increasingly supports this model, providing tools for spatial data management, analysis, visualization, and creation of reporting materials in the form of services via the organization’s networks or the Web. When using services, data and tools can be located both inside and outside the organization, and they can be requested and used to support the functions of all end users.

This service-based technology can provide significant incentives for municipal and other government agencies to be more efficient by delivering in-demand business functions and information products throughout the organization. The latter provides the necessary support for decision-making and operational efficiency in any organization’s physical structure.

For example, thanks to GIS-powered apps, citizens can take pictures of illegal parking, graffiti, standing water, and other issues via their cell phone camera and automatically file the report to the proper department, using the phone's GPS to mark the location.

Planning And Development

Urban planning with GIS data enables the quick organization of various geospatial information about the urban environment, urban zoning rules, lifecycle stages of construction projects and spatial planning scenarios, and assessment of the impact of development projects on the urban environment. Besides, it simplifies the interaction between departments and agencies thanks to timely decision-making and mitigation of possible risks.

Making decisions on urban development involves:

  • Preliminary study of various schemes for urban planning of the territory, general development plans, transport schemes, zoning schemes, and planning and development projects
  • Assessment of investments in a particular development option
  • Evaluation of return on investment and the overall economic and social effect.

Due to their high labor intensity, traditional technologies often fail to allow even two options to be worked out properly. At present, the involvement of modern computers and, in particular, geoinformation technologies has made it possible to significantly increase the number of options being worked out and significantly improve the quality of their development.

For example, GIS apps collect citizens' feedback on bicycle and pedestrian routes, green zones improvements, development or redevelopment opportunities, lighting or safety needs, etc. This enables authorities to identify community needs, favorite places, and assets that require preservation, hence contributing to effective planning and development.

Reporting Of Weather-Related Issues

Weather is one of the most significant factors in many spheres. That is why it’s so essential to track weather patterns to forecast them beforehand and be ready in case of natural disasters. GIS is helping mitigate the problems created by storms, snowfall, ice, and rainfall. Cities leverage GIS technology to create public maps that depict the location of the problem area and show where the mitigation actions occur. For example, some cities offer citizens snowplows, mudslides, or flooding tracking opportunities to know which routes are open for driving.

Crime Response And Prevention

Before GIS, responding to an emergency call required using paper maps. Now, the location the call is coming from can be tracked and sent straight to the police or fire department systems. On their behalf, police can use geotagged and constantly updated crime information for precise operation planning, which means better and more effective decision-making.

Open Data Usefulness

Making that data public is only the first step of the game. Now, it has to become accessible and readable to most citizens. GIS helps transform raw data into a valuable and interactive form, allowing citizens to view parcel information: tax data, property records, sales information.

The Future Of Governments Using GIS

Here are the main trends shaping up the future of how governments will use GIS technology:

  • Geotagged mobile and social data enabling government agencies to send out alerts to users based on their location
  • Machine learning is becoming a massive part of GIS apps, enabling organizations across law enforcement and disaster relief groups to accurately predict different risks.
  • Remote sensing and imaging enable enhanced monitoring of public infrastructure.
  • A growing number of road signs and utilities with internet connectivity, backing up utilities, and disaster response teams with accurate, relevant data they can use to mitigate any issues

These trends evolving simultaneously will lead to further widespread use of GIS by municipalities, offering city authorities more opportunities. Recognizing the power of GIS technology, municipal bodies will significantly optimize their work and make their interaction with citizens much more effective.

Tania Holembovska is a motivated and avid content writer at Tania believes in the power of geospatial data and custom algorithms.