GIS is Collaborative

Your own GIS is simply your view into the larger system. It’s a two-way street. You consume information that you need from others, and in turn, you feed your information back into the larger ecosystem.
Geography is key for integrating work across communities
Modern GIS is about participation, sharing, and collaboration. As a Web GIS user, you require helpful, ready-to-use information that can be put to work quickly and easily. The GIS user community fulfills that need—that’s the big idea. GIS was actually about open data long before the term gained fashion because the people who were doing it were always looking for ways to deepen and broaden their own GIS data holdings. No one agency, team, or individual user could possibly hope to compile all the themes and geographic extents of data required, so people networked about this to get what they needed.

Since the early days in GIS, people realized that to be successful they would need data from other sources beyond their immediate workgroups. People quickly recognized the need for data sharing. Open GIS and data sharing gained traction quite rapidly across the GIS community, and continue to be a critical aspect in GIS implementation.
With cloud computing and the mobile/app revolution, the GIS community is expanding to include almost anyone on the planet. The data in every GIS is being brought together virtually to create a comprehensive GIS of the world, and nearly everyone can take GIS with them everywhere they go on their tablets and smartphones. Geography and maps enable all kinds of conversations and working relationships both inside and outside your organization.
GIS is for organizations
First and foremost, your GIS can be used by people throughout your organization. In Web GIS, maps are purpose-driven and their intended audience may include your executives, managers, decision makers, operations staff, field crews, and constituents. ArcGIS Online enables you to extend your reach to these users.
GIS is for communities
GIS users collaborate across communities. These communities may be based on relationships fostered by living in the same geography (a city, region, state, or country) or by working in the same industry or subject matter (conservation, utilities, government, land management, agriculture, epidemiology, business, etc.). In these communities, users share critical data layers as well as map designs, best practices, and GIS methods.
GIS is for public engagement
People everywhere are starting to engage with GIS. They have been using maps as consumers, and now they are interested in applying them at work and in their community relationships. Often this involves communicating with the public by telling stories using maps. More and more, members of the public are providing input and collecting their own data for GIS organizations and the public good. This makes for better civic engagement at multiple levels.


This post is excerpted from The ArcGIS Book: 10 Big Ideas about Applying Geography to Your World. The twin goals of this book are to open your eyes to what is now possible with Web GIS, and then spur you into action by putting the technology and deep data resources in your hands. The book is available through and other booksellers, and is also available at for free.

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