Geographical Information Systems or GIS: the term may sound too high-tech, like something only computer types can use. But, really, accessing GIS is as
easy as doing a Google search. Today the 5th annual GIS conference was held at the Biltmore and business managers, educators and representatives from
the health sector presented on how GIS has dramatically improved their operations. Now that is on the corporate level, but how can this system improve
your daily life? A representative from the Global Geo-spatial Information Management Unit at the United Nations, Cecille Bake, told us about the
multifaceted benefits of this GIS in the commercial world and in your personal life.
Cecille Blake - Global Geo-spatial Information Management Unit, UN
"You have a map and traditionally people don't like maps. They say maps hard to read and people would only use it to go from A to B - they would be in
their car and mark and say A,B,C. There's only so much information you can show on a map. What GIS does is to put that information that you have on a
paper map into a digital form. So now, when it is in a digital form, you can have layers or various information - so that you see everything together
on the map and you can see the relationships. GIS allows you to map information in various means; from satellites, the land surveyor, even the ordinary
person with your cellphone can collect information that goes into a GIS database. GIS technology is not just technology, it is about the data that is
collected and the decisions that are made. Belize just like any other Caribbean island or developing country has lots of challenges. Economic
challenges, natural disasters, flooding, crime and you want to have economic development. You need to grow, you need to break the disparity between the
rich and the poor. And we believe that GIS technology, it can do that - because what it does it allows us to see the interaction between various data
sets, to see how it relates to each other. We're able to make better decisions. You know that a hurricane is coming or you know that a certain area is
susceptible to floods. You can inform population you ought not to live in those areas. What kind of mitigating factors that you can put in place to
protect your population. We collect information on demographics in terms of where people live, what do they do and all this information can be fed in
what we call a spacial database. And the power is linking various data sets together that help us to inform what is currently happening to understand
the relationship when there is a disease out break, malaria, chic-v. You can track the spread of these things, you can decide what kind of intervention
measures you sure employ, that you can reduce the effects of these type of out break - protect the health of your people. In business it is very
important. Every day that you get up, you are using GIS. Everybody these days have a smartphone and your smartphone, you're using google earth. We make
decisions everyday using GIS. If we're going to school, going to work, what is the best route I should take. You're going into a new neighbourhood that
you do not know, you use the navigation on your cellphone to get from A to B. That is GIS. You need to know where restaurants are as a tourist in
Belize. I go to my map, you have a map that shoes you where are the various locations for restaurants, attractions for tourism. That influence helps me
to make decisions."
Loretta Palacio - Managing Director, TBSL
"We also be launching tomorrow, the education portal - GIS education portal. This is for students, educators, parents. I'm a parent and our students
are learning all kinds of information. Where is this river? What is produced down south. How many constituencies are in Belize city?"
According to Blake Belize has a long way to go compared to Jamaica. Jamaica began the process of implementing GIS 20 years ago.