Geographical Information Systems for Urban Management

Subject: Sciences
Pages: 15
Words: 4132
Reading time:
15 min
Study level: College


Geographic information system (GIS) is a term used to describe a comprehensive system that has been designed to manage, analyze, manipulate, store, capture and present geographical data (Longley 2005, p. 21). GIS entails complex use of database technology, cartography as well as statistical analysis. It is an important tool for managing information in urban centers. A GIS platform is capable of gathering information from many sources to form a foundation for the execution of different types of work. In order for this system to work well, it has to be attached to specific urban vicinity. This explains why the system is applied in an intended region and with a defined set of objectives (Folger 2010, p. 8). Modern models of GIS use digital data to process the desired information. In addition, creation of numerous methods of planning is entirely digitalized. This system uses both time and space to relate variables.

A GIS system presents objects such as water ways, roads and buildings and also determines different approaches which can be used to place them. Most recently, more open source packages of GIS have been developed. The aforementioned packages have wide range of internal systems. These are customizable according to specific and intended tasks. It is against this background that this paper explores the use of GIS in making decisions that are much needed in constructing sustainable urban environments. The paper also demonstrates the benefits of geographical information system (GIS) and the role it plays in management of urban information.

Advancements in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and related supportive technologies have led to the invention of decision support systems (Folger 2010, p. 8). According to Folger (2010, p. 13), there are numerous decision making tools which facilitate planning processes in communities. These planning aids use alternative development indicators to measure various attributes of the immediate environments. They also analyze different development scenarios in order to value the potential performance of suggested plans. They are quite instrumental in urban planning. Therefore, successful community participation is created since GIS focuses on the needs of users rather than their degree of technical know-how. Indeed, most professional planners are able to adopt and apply these systems without going through a lot of training.

GIS systems evaluate and compare performances of policies that have been adopted and already being implemented. They use both the citizen-based and planner based indicators (Roo & Miller 2004, p. 120). These include employment, land use, natural resources and infrastructure. In decision making, a GIS platform has a chief objective of uniting efforts towards the achievement of the set visions in society. After policies have been successfully formulated, potential stake holders are called upon to work together as a common collaborating team. Organizations are given the opportunity to come up with alternative developments. This comes automatically when the initial plans are tested. It is normally a quick and efficient process which involves the determination of impacts that entail future utilization of resources (Wyatt & Ralphs 2003, p. 196). Employment trends and patterns are evaluated according to the information available in a given GIS platform. Public officials get a chance to make quality and informed decisions.

Planners must use information such as housing stock, transport networks, physical addresses, land utilization, zones and parcels in both small and large scale planning (Demers 2009, p.70). They have to monitor many regional and urban indicators. This is the basis they use in forecasting future community needs and in planning how to improve life quality of urban dwellers. They use technologies such as geographic information systems in researching, developing, implementing and monitoring progress of strategies that have been put in place. The GIS system provides surveyors, planners and engineers with the tools needed for mapping and designing desirable structural organizations in urban land. Due to the implementation of such systems, governments are able to balance business, residential, agricultural and industrial concerns in urban centers. Local governments must factor their decisions according to all the requirements of different groups. Parkinson and Mark (2005, p. 112) note that without proper use of appropriate technology like GIS, decisions made may not be able to fully address the demands of a given community.

There are rapid changes in economic developments which complicate planning and thereby threatening balanced use of available resources. It is important to understand various areas of jurisdiction so that local authorities may be adequately planned. This enables them to adhere to budgets as they continue offering reliable levels of services. In this regard, Geographic information systems are crucial in equipping governments with a wide scope of ideas to manage environment. Research shows that the use of geographical information system technology makes traditional activities to be carried out more efficiently (Nyerges & Jankowski 2009, p. 47). Besides, impossible or impractical tasks can be accomplished more effectively if decisions are made through the employment of informational systems.

Using GIS has numerous proven benefits. Bhatta (2010, p.102) outlines the numerous benefits which are accrued from the application of GIS aided decisions. For instance, efficiency is maximized since information is handled in the right way. Secondly, a lot of time is saved since decisions are made from a rich store of information. All resources are allocated according to well known statistics that are gathered from the system. One of the most important geographical planning issues is public participation in the organization of communities. It has been found out that geographic information systems are made valid by the fact that they enhance the participation of members of the public in to the process of decision making (Nyerges & Jankowski 2009, p.165). Parkinson and Mark (2005, p. 150) point out that these systems have in-built response chambers which gather the opinion of the public. All agencies which participate in urban activities which impact communities are given a chance to collaborate. Their collaboration results into the creation a sustainable development. Collaboration of individuals and such agencies increases contact made with government policy makers. It becomes possible to make decisions without the use of lots of finances.

On the same note, Bhatta (2010, p.120) notes that urban planning is the fabric on which societies survive. He adds that residential, rural, towns and city areas cannot be run well if fore sight planning is not done appropriately (Bhatta 2010, p.123). Many challenges such as traffic and pollution will be solved accordingly if technology is used to make analyses before decisions are implemented. The truth is that traditional ways of analyzing urban information have failed in formulating viable and reliable decisions which are able to become solutions to both present and future problems. Geographic information systems have automated tasks. These help in doing away with the tedious way of gathering decisional information. On top of this, these systems give hinds to planners. They help them to formulate decisions from an informed foundation. This is a reliable way of making policies which have universal effects on people and organizations. Money is saved when the process of decision making is mechanized. Mechanization not only helps in saving financial resources but also in improving accuracy in the process of making sustainable urban environments.

Due to the application of geographic information systems, decision making becomes simple. Research has shown that it becomes possible to move towards the creation of the ideal societies which have been visions to human communities (Roo & Miller 2004, p.80). This system yields regulations that support the accomplishment of all designed urban informational planning goals. There is a complex reality caused by the constantly changing set up of societies. Professionals use these systems to come up with technical ways of translating visions into practical plans of action. GIS places citizens in positions from which they can easily comply with regulations of the state. In summary, thousands of governmental and private agencies who have embraced GIS tools have been able to come up with solutions to societal problems (Wyatt & Ralphs 2003, p. 205).

GIS technology is used to carry out reviews on environmental projects (Longley 2005, p. 300). This is normally done as an analytic review of developmental activities for compliance. It is important to calculate the overall impact expected to the communities which are closer to redevelopment sites. GIS web services are used to create a smooth flow of national economic planning. They are the tools used to coordinate such initiatives. Decisions of change initiatives have strong reliance on information stores found in geographical information systems.

Geographical information systems help in building reputable public reputation for the various departments of planning. Since they are well equipped, members of these departments are able to make highly responsive decisions. This is important in environmentally sensitive areas. Demers (2009, p. 66) gives a partial solution to delays when he proposes GIS for information retrieval. GIS allows quick access to information from parcel mappings. It is easier to make decisions when zones have already been designated and permit status are known.

These systems are also used to prepare long term plans of action. In setting legally acceptable standards, officials use facts about communities as provided by the system in place. Long range transitions about environments are made with accurate studies of physical environments. The use of GIS propels activities of incorporating community input in development (Longley 2005, p. 200). This is possible through the creation of a vision of improving the lives of citizens. Monitoring of progress towards goals, formulation of solutions and analysis of challenges becomes more effective if GIS tools are used.

Literature review reveals that geographical information systems are important in several ways. It should be understood that they have an important role of giving descriptions (Longley 2005, p. 195). Information banks stored in them assist in studying situations. This acts as food for thought. After a condition is described, it is possible to come up with a variety of ideas which are turned into action plans. It is evidenced that reliable descriptions acquired from geographic information systems have been a useful tool for decision making (Nyerges & Jankowski 2009, p. 147).

On a different note, these systems are built in such a way that it is possible for them to play a cognitive role. This means that they have an aspect of creating a deeper understanding of regional and urban settings. They provide variables which are analyzed using statistical techniques to model reliable solutions. It is worth noting that these specialized systems are the basis for many fascinating structural plans which are seen around in the contemporary world. Credit should be given to organizations which have been using GIS. Planners should make more attempts of coming up with additional models of GIS to cater for the highly dynamic urban environment of this era.

In his study, Longley (2005, p. 205) points out that geographical information systems have a normative role too. They provide a standard which is to be emulated. It has been noted that they have effect of improving actions through a reduction of the general cost involved in action. Before activities are done, a GIS provides a prediction of the expected consequences. This eliminates cases of uncertainties which come with a project which is about to be taken. In a season of numerous changes it is important to increase efficiency through the implementation of innovative technologies. Roo and Miller (2004, p. 98) recommend that urban systems should not be treated with light concepts. They add that geographic informational systems should be applied to include social, economic and political variables (Roo & Miller 2004, p. 112).

Finally, the use of a GIS as a tool for creating information data banks is highly important bearing in mind that it makes it possible to visualize information according to themes. This is of ultimate importance in the determination of dwellings and people, calculation of the proximity of structures and gives a determinant scale of the life lived in an urban area. The decisions made as policies should grasp applications of GIS in nearly all areas. Through improved visualization enabled by this technology, it becomes easier to do effective and participative planning. The way individuals are affected by basic infrastructure is adequately evaluated. It becomes easier to made decisions. It is important to understand that geographical information systems are adequate tools for assessing and treating urban information. The designing of public urban projects becomes more effective if this tool for decision making is used as a construction instrument.

As already discussed in the previous section, Geographical Information System is a crucial technological tool that is usually used to manage and comprehend geographical information in order to make intelligent decisions (Campbell 1994, p. 309). According to the latter author, monitoring and managing information related to land used in urban areas is an integral practice that facilitates regional planning. In this case, use of GIS helps one to device strategic plans and policies that are crucial in urban management. Xia and Yeh (2000, p. 136) comprehend that GIS has got numerous roles it plays in managing urban information. Notably, GIS acts as a support tool in planning and institutionalization of environmental structures (Faust 1995, 257). Therefore, the tool is able to foster decision making for sustainable environmental management. The remaining section of this paper aims to examine the overall capabilities of GIS in urban information management. Moreover, it intends to answer the question on whether GIS can be used to monitor, predict and record environmental sustainability. Additionally, the paper demonstrates how GIS can be used as an integration tool for urban analysis and decision-making. In this case, the research hypothesis to be used entails assessing how GIS can be used as a sustainable tool in making environmental decisions using relevant indicators from the environment.

It is imperative to note that studies have shown that GIS can be used to organize geographical information in a given area. Therefore, it is arguable that this is a crucial tool in generating numerous forms of data from different sources in order to facilitate planning and policing. Essentially, GIS facilitates organization of information obtained from a given locality and also generates it into a body of knowledge (Pettit 2005, p. 525). From a careful review of history, research has shown that GIS has been applied to collect geographical data in urban and convert it into map projects.

In addition to this, this technology makes data available for analysis and in most cases, government administrators use this information to develop and make effective planning in urban set ups. Needless to say, Xia and Yeh (2000, p. 132) assert that GIS converts raw information into data sets or packages for easier storage. Moreover, information filed in data sets or maps can be used by business vendors, architects and government agencies to understand more about urban sites. Campbell (1994, p. 312) complements that GIS is also able to identify and record urban information such as latitudes, longitudes and other coordinates in the most effective way. Once this information has been stored, air travelers such as pilots can derive it for use during flights. Due to technological advancement, GIS has developed interactive maps that are computer generated. Therefore, urban dwellers and map users can scan the maps through computers which eventually enable them to locate any direction within the urban settlement (Pettit 2005, p. 526). Notably, computerized information is very clear and comprehensive such that one can locate distinct features such as roads, airports and other important features from the internet.

Besides, Faust (1995, p. 261) notes that GIS can be used to combine information and analyze it into numerous layers depending on the numerous locations that comprise urban setting. Needless to say, GIS is also used for verification purposes to ensure accuracy of data collected. In this case, this technology ensures accurate data analysis, recording and presentation strategies. Campbell (1994, p. 316) points out that the technology have proved to be very useful in visualization of data. Moreover, it facilitates spatial analysis and modeling of information to enhance urban planning. In this case, the tool not only store environmental data but also socio-economic and information related to planning applications (Masseran 2001, 511). Pointless to say, planners have benefited from data queries that are made through GIS and this makes it easy for them to execute their plans in urban. It is important to note that information management in urban is a complicated task and this makes the roles of GIS to vary from one urban center to the other (Xia & Yeh (2000, p. 138). In this case, this tool is able to store and manage data using numerous models depending on the standard function and type. Needles to say, GIS is able to manage abstract and non abstract information through unique strategies for easier retrieval. For instance, there is a type of data that is not theoretical and hence it is stored through use of graphics and spreadsheets.

Use of GIS to monitor record and predict environmental sustainability as support system within the planning and institutional structure

It is imperative to note that environmental sustainability and planning is crucial in urban areas. These processes are very vulnerable and as such, GIS is used as a major tool to simplify them. Notably, application of GIS in environmental management varies accordingly depending on the interest of the potential users, specific environmental issues considered and spheres. In this case, Carsjen and Ligtenberg (2007, p.81) argue that GIS has a set of diverse roles to play and therefore can be used to monitor, record and predict environmental sustainability. For instance, it is apparent that GIS can be applied in various processes in order to foster easy coordination of activities and also decimate duplication of efforts (Sudhira, Ramachandra & Jagadish 2004, p. 35). Notably, environmental sustainability and urban planning are processes that entail influence of public behavior. To achieve this, there is need to convert available information into knowledge that can be availed to the public to bring about change. In this case, GIS can be used to collect, analyze, interpret and convert data into knowledge. Through technology, this knowledge can be disseminated to the public in order to propagate sustainable development.

Carsjen and Ligtenberg (2007, p.79) note that GIS converts data into knowledge in numerous disciplines such as archeology, geology and zoology. In this case, the toll helps to identify environmental areas that are more sensitive and have got high chances of being degrades. In this case, it helps respective agencies to come up with policies and decisions that can be implemented to ensure sustainability in such areas. Needless to say, information provided during planning is scrutinized and effective guidelines are offered to ensure that appropriate developments are made to protect vulnerable sites. Besides this, Sieber (2006, p. 502) confirms that through GIS, information can be disseminated into the internet and consequently facilitate automated decisions and regulatory processes.

Moreover, with GIS technology at hand, it makes it easy for respective agencies to come up with preventive measures and procedures to follow in their development activities and this boosts environmental sustainability. Sieber (2006, p. 507) notes that there are areas such as natural habitats that are interfered with by human activities. In line with this, numerous geographical regions have distinct features making them to be easily modified through various activities. In this case, GIS can be used to provide extensive information related to such sites and this will help in ensuring their sustainability. For instance in most urban centers there are catchment sites such as rivers that are normally degraded through pollution or other illegal uses. Therefore, GIS can be used to locate such sites and effective measures can be taken to protect them.

According to Campbell (1994, p. 322), GIS is commonly used as a predicting tool to determine usage and planning in urban. Initially, the technology is used to describe the geography and other function of a given geographical region. In this case, one can make analysis in regard to a given region depending on the descriptions given. For this case, government agents, architectures and planners are likely to predict forthcoming problems in an area. In this case, GIS can be used to predict environmental sustainability by demonstrating the strength and future problems of a given location. That notwithstanding, Xia and Yeh (2000, p. 143) point out that GIS has got graphical presentation of an area, spatial analysis and capabilities. This information is crucial in planning and monitoring the site to ensure that activities carried out in urban do not interfere with the environment. (Sudhira, Ramachandra & Jagadish 2004, p. 29) argues that successful monitoring of environmental sustainability needs a fashionable support system that will enhance proper decision-making.

How can Geographic information system (GIS), which is considered a major integration tool for urban analysis, link to decision making in sustainable urban environment?

It is apparent that GIS is a major integration tool that links urban analysis to decision making in order to foster sustainable development in urban. One of the ways in which the integration occurs is by combining the tool with other methodologies in order to assess the environment to determine appropriate techniques with the aim of ensuring sustainability. GIS collaborate with other research methodology that enables it to come up with spatial database or environment and social activities in a given location (Carsjen and Ligtenberg 2007, p.76). Consequently, information derived enables planners and agencies to analyze the sustainability of the site. From the analysis, they make decisions that act as alternative s to control, monitor and enhance environmental sustainability in urban. Notably, decisions made comprise of policies and procedures that are to be implemented to protect and manage the environment. It is worth to emphasize that analysis made through GIS triggers the act of making decisions and this makes the technology to be regarded as an integration tool.

GIS Capabilities and Benefit in urban information management and planning

Faust (1995, p. 259) comments that there are many benefits and capabilities derived from GIS. For instance, the tool improves mapping, and this provide a good access to maps and major sites. Therefore, it is arguable that GIS facilitate effective thematic mapping which make planners and architectures to have easy moments while carrying out crucial activities in urban. Additionally, GIS allows efficient retrieval of information (Sudhira, Ramachandra & Jagadish 2004, p. 37). Moreover, it facilitates extensive access of geographical data for the purpose of planning.

In line with this, evidence has shown that use of GIS in information management and planning is cost effective. For instance, research has revealed that this is the most appropriate technology of collecting, validating and converting data into knowledge. Moreover, information provided is more efficient and can be kept secure for as long as it is needed. In this case, the technology decimates bias and limitations that are elicited through other methods such as use of manual methodologies. Carsjen and Ligtenberg (2007, p.74) argue that one of the capabilities in GIS is that is very flexible since data can be stored and presented in numerous models. Moreover, it is able to store data from multiple sources in datasets hence eliminating bulkiness that occur due to large volume of papers.

Another capability of GIS is that it is flexible and hence can be used with other methodologies. The latter explains the reason why it has been regarded as an evolving technique in urban analysis. These models include qualitative and quantitative analysis bearing in mind that that allow discovery of numerous planning activities and more comprehensive data that can be put into productive use. Sieber (2006, p. 492) is quite categorical that the GIS technology gives room for comparison of special facts about a site, a factor that eradicates potential statistical and index conflicts. Therefore, a collaborative approach enables correlation of different forms of data that could influence existing management patterns and consequently boost environment sustainability.


To reiterate on the above, it is worth noting that GIS is a form of technology that seeks to comprehend and analyze information of a particular geographical site with the aim of enhancing planning and management though intelligent decision-making. The technology seeks to understand and derive knowledge in a given local environment. The major goal of GIS is to ensure sustainable development and management of environment especially in urban centers. This technology plays crucial roles in enhancing urban information management such as conducting analysis, storage and presentation through computerized techniques. Moreover, information provided through GIS can be used to record, monitor and predict environmental sustainability. Therefore, this tool acts as support system for planning and management of urban structure. GIS acts as an integration tool by linking data analysis with decision making in order to promote environmental sustainability in Urban. This tool has numerous benefits and capabilities that facilitate planning and information management in urban environment. These include improved mapping, easy retrieval of information, reduced cost of urban management, flexibility and minimal redundancy.


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