GIS (or geographic information systems) are software that is built to store, analyze, and display geographic data. It operates on a system built on 5 pillars: Users, Hardware, Software, Data, and Analysis. A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer system for capturing, storing, checking, and displaying data related to positions on Earth’s surface. GIS can show many different kinds of data on one map, such as streets, buildings, and vegetation. This enables people to more easily see, analyze, and understand patterns and relationships.
With GIS, users can solve a plurality of problems where the location is a factor. Where should city planners put a new hospital or clinic? Where will we draw election districts after a decennial census? Where will a hurricane make landfall, and how will that area respond to a major storm? What routes will make transportation companies more efficient? All of these questions and many more can be answered with the right data, the right analysis, and the right user.
If you're just a casual observer looking to expand your skillset, a researcher in academia who thinks that GIS will help improve your work, or just someone who wants to learn something new, there are ways of learning how to use GIS available.
Visit the training website for ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute), the industry leader in GIS. Sign up for a public account, and begin crafting a learning plan with the free tutorials offered that will help you learn just how powerful GIS can be. Or, if you don't know where to start, use any of the free learning plans provided by ESRI.
Find out more about working with data on a GIS project from the iSchool@Syracuse (Syracuse University School of Information Studies).