Governments’ Coordinated Response to Crises

The ability to make sense of place, and to guide daily operations, has made geographic information system (GIS) technology a must for governments at all scales. Governments have a long history of applying location intelligence far earlier than the advent of computers and GIS software. The government of Canada first created and coined the term GIS more than 50 years ago.

Recent advancements in cloud-native GIS have made the tool much more accessible, easy to use, and connected across enterprises. Prior issues of lack of data and siloed data have been addressed, and the tools now benefit from a seamless pattern of use by on-site workers, managers, and decision- makers.

In the arena of crisis management, the combination of field apps that feed inputs to shared dashboards has revolutionized operations. The apps now often are tailored to speed data collection and provide a shared situational awareness that greatly improves crisis response.

Location intelligence helps organizations and communities gain a deeper understanding of where to focus efforts to prevent, protect against, and mitigate the effects of complex threats and hazards. GIS provides a platform to share information, deploy a real-time common operational picture, and fuse intelligence for a coordinated response.

For the national security community, GIS allows users to gain increased awareness of vulnerabilities and greater context as situations unfold. This kind of intelligence allows decision- makers to react more efficiently. Today, GIS has become a platform of innovation for national security professionals, bringing geographic data to life to guide action.

In this introductory section, the first piece details how the COVID-19 crisis took place at a moment when the power of GIS has been widely embraced to unite and connect people, organizations, and services.

Disaster and pandemic responses are guided by geospatial communication from the top of the world’s largest health organizations all the way down to the boots on the ground of our first responders. Businesses rely on location intelligence to improve operations and guide strategy, and will rely on them even more to guide strategies for reopening.

With much of the world focused on halting the spread of COVID-19, real-time maps are delivering a new global awareness.

As with epidemics of the past, authorities and responders look to maps for updated details about confirmed cases, highest risk populations, and available or needed health-care resources.

Disease surveillance is now a map-centric activity, with GIS technology used to collect, analyze, and share key data. Over the past 20 years, leading health organizations—including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—consistently have relied on mapping and spatial analysis to manage disease outbreaks.

Most ministries of health around the world and all 50 US state health departments are using GIS maps to analyze health trends and relationships that otherwise would be difficult to discover.

Public health agencies have used GIS for decades to manage immunization and vaccination needs. Health service staff use it to target where to concentrate efforts to meet needs. People use maps to find where vaccines are available.

Location intelligence supports many challenges of the COVID-19 crisis with evidence-based decisions and maps that guide actions.


This book details the stories of how GIS has been a powerful collaboration technology, enabling governments of all sizes to collate, analyze, and visualize the information necessary to address coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) challenges. GIS has been especially helpful in communicating the real-time status of the epidemic and providing valuable information to the public. GIS also has been central to forecasting the spread of the disease and the related demand for hospital capacity. It has been fundamental in finding and serving vulnerable populations, selecting and mapping testing sites, surveilling the spread of the disease, and delivering vaccines. These stories provide a few samples of the type of work done by thousands of public sector professionals around the world who are supporting crisis management at local, national, and global scales.

During this time, our nation has seen an extremely active hurricane season, raging wildfires, and periods of protest and social unrest. Again and again, we have seen the application of real-time GIS with mobile apps and interactive dashboards fed by real- time details on current conditions—alongside first responders in the field—providing a fundamental platform for supporting the rapid sharing of situation awareness.

These examples also reflect the growing interest in using geography and geospatial infrastructure (GIS at scale) to address our common problems. The new generation of Web GIS technology allows users to dynamically interconnect various types of information originating from many sources using location for reference. It’s my strong belief that with this new pattern, we will help organizations respond more effectively to many of our challenges and create a more sustainable future.

Mapping the Nation: Governments’ Coordinated Responses to Crises continues a 35-year pattern of acknowledging our users by showcasing their work in a series of mapping books. Their work continues to become more impressive, reflecting the growing role that geography and geographic information are playing in understanding and addressing our global challenges. The work and ideas featured are meant to show both how GIS already is being applied as well as provide inspiration for how we can create a better future.

Warm regards,

Jack Dangermond signature

Jack Dangermond