GIS Popularized in Belize


Wed, January 18, 2012

“Key to strategic business decisions”, that’s how Total Business Solutions, the driving force behind the introduction of GIS into Belize is describing the technology that some experts say is fundamental to the narrowing of the gap between first and third world countries.

In Belize, a lack of up to date and relevant data has been highlighted as a major obstacle to sustainable development. That’s why TBSL HAS partnered with Esri, the World’s leader in GIS software and data to bring awareness to as many Belizean professionals, private and public organizations of the value of the technology.

Today at the Belize Biltmore Hotel, the 2nd Annual Belize GIS Conference got underway, and Managing Director of TBSL, Loretta Palacio told 7 News changing the mindset of the country’s key players remains the greatest challenge yet.

Loretta Palacio – Managing Director, TBSL

“GIS is what nations are using to develop their country, to move forward, to be able to make decisions, because other than that, it’s opinions. If we have information, we have industries, economic development, farming, real estate, banking etc. And we could talk about all the issues that we have, or the different sectors that we need to manage, National Emergency Management. We cannot – we’ll say -we think it’s this because we are seeing tabular data. But when you put information into a GIS, you start to see trends, patters, relationships, and it gives to make better decision. You’re more strategic.”

TBSL along with ESRI are strong proponents of developing a National Spatial Data Infrastructure, an asset for countries like Belize that would contribute significantly to the country’s wider infrastructure. While there’s still movement towards that, some significant strides are being made.

Simon Thompson – Director Commercial Solutions, ESRI

“The last year when I came down here, we talked about building a national spatial data infrastructure, bringing in the information together, and start to build a Belizean-owned asset, that we can used to help encourage and develop the nation. One of the things that I am really pleased to announce is that today, TBSL has a national base-map for Belize. That was built with Belizean expertise, people, and knowledge – knowledge that was given, understood, created, and used in the last 12 months. It wasn’t people from America, England, South Africa, Australia, or anywhere else. That was local expertise, local knowledge, and local capability. And What I truly believe is that we can give that and do much more.”

Jim McFadzean

“Are you still in the educational process?”

Loretta Palacio

“Yes, Jim, that’s a very important question. That is our main objective. We are in the education process, hence in my presentation; we talked about the GIS courses that we’ve been running. We talked about the kid’s camp for youngsters. I mentioned the World GIS Day, which you covered so well. Educating, the young, the professionals, we are trying to build a community of people who will make decisions using GIS.”

The conference concludes tomorrow.

So what exactly is GIS?

A geographic information system (GIS) integrates hardware, software, and data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information. GIS allows us to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports, and charts. A GIS helps you answer questions and solve problems by looking at your data in a way that is quickly understood and easily shared. GIS technology can be integrated into any enterprise information system framework.

What Can You Do with GIS?

  • Map Where Things Are – Mapping where things are lets you find places that have the features you’re looking for and to see patterns.
  • Map Quantities – People map quantities to find places that meet their criteria and take action. A children’s clothing company might want to find ZIP Codes with many young families with relatively high income. Public health officials might want to map the numbers of physicians per 1,000 people in each census tract to identify which areas are adequately served, and which are not.
  • Map Densities – A density map lets you measure the number of features using a uniform areal unit so you can clearly see the distribution. This is especially useful when mapping areas, such as census tracts or counties, which vary greatly in size. On maps showing the number of people per census tract, the larger tracts might have more people than smaller ones. But some smaller tracts might have more people per square mile—a higher density.
  • Find What’s Inside – Use GIS to monitor what’s happening and to take specific action by mapping what’s inside a specific area. For example, a district attorney would monitor drug-related arrests to find out if an arrest is within 1,000 feet of a school–if so, stiffer penalties apply.
  • Find What’s Nearby – GIS can help you find out what’s occurring within a set distance of a feature by mapping what’s nearby.
  • Map Change – Map the change in an area to anticipate future conditions, decide on a course of action, or to evaluate the results of an action or policy. By mapping where and how things move over a period of time, you can gain insight into how they behave. For example, a meteorologist might study the paths of hurricanes to predict where and when they might occur in the future.

We hope that this tool, if implemented; will allow our Govt to better scrutinize the needs of the nation, pinpoint the affected areas based on the issues, make amends and implement procedures to resolve them accordingly. However, keep in mind that with every good thing, there is always the space for it to be used for negative reasons, just saying.

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