In tight times when life seems uncertain for the economies of so many countries, some good news is a welcome break. And there’s plenty of good news if you have a master in GIS.
Todd Park, the chief technology officer for the U.S. spoke at the Esri Federal GIS conference in February where he depicted a world in which GIS-infused data on the Internet could transform the ways governments deliver services … or, by extension, how companies interact with their customers and employees. That transformation, for public or private, will take separate stages.
Awareness of the potential
Many organizations are in this first phase. GIS cannot help if managers and officials do not realize the advantages the technology offers. A company, non-profit, or government should first recognize that data-driven management can lead to better decision making and more effective outcomes than more traditional forms of analysis and control. Part of data-driven management is pulling together different forms of information that can yield new insights. GIS uses location as a common thread through what people need and want and how organizations can deliver it.
Organizations have spent decades with a particular approach to information. Data was tied to applications and segregated, just as organizational functions were typically placed into separate operational silos. But decisions for the future need a broader and more holistic view than the concerns of one small part of a larger concern. For GIS to thrive and be helpful, organizations need to free data from previously narrow contexts and make it available for analysts to pull together. That means tagging virtually all the data available in ways that bring incorporate the concept of location, whether a geospatial point or a more general logical form of location, such as a stage of a process or a virtual point on a computer network.
Perhaps the most important point that Park directly made was that data in and of itself can represent a dead end, as the publication FCW reported:
“Data by itself is useless – and it’s painful for me to say this,” Park said. “You can’t pour data on a broken bone and heal it. You can’t pour data on the street and fix it. Data is only useful if it is applied for useful public benefit.”
More generally, data is only useful when put to a concrete use for some community, whether citizens of a state or country or customers of a business. But when experts can pull together vast arrays of data and power decisions and insights that can transform the way governments, non-profits, and corporations undertake their responsibilities, the results can — and will — be amazing.