Maximizing the Power of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in Applied Land Informatics

Author: Otawa, Toru
Geographic information systems (GIS) have been implemented in a variety of organizations around the world and are increasingly used as a spatial decision-making tool by a wide range of disciplines. This diffusion of GIS has been driven primarily by advancements in GIS-related technologies such as hardware and software. While introducing GIS, very few organizations have scrutinized the socio-cultural infrastructure of an organization such as data and user needs. This “black-box” approach to GIS implementation has often led to disappointing outcomes, contrary to organization’s initial expectations. This book is based on the author’s inexhaustible motive to help maximize the benefits from GIS in corporate settings by understanding better and sound GIS design that meets organizational missions, goals and needs.

This study is a compilation of the land information research undertaken during the 1990s. A model was conceptualized and applied to local organizations to help evaluate the implementation of organization-wide or corporate geospatial information systems (GIS) over time. A questionnaire was developed to assess values and perceptions associated with the model components. The evaluation model has proven its value in assessing the efficacy of GIS in local and regional organizations. It was also effective as a diagnostic tool to make an existing GIS work and advance to the next level of implementation. This book describes the results of analyses and suggests various ways in which an organization, whether public, private, or quasi-public, can help maximize the potential of and benefits from a corporate GIS.


“This valuable work takes us away from the issues that GIS technicians must face on a regular basis and focuses us instead on the critical and wide ranging management and organizational issues that must be addressed. It actually opens us up to the idea that perhaps an entirely new class of managers must be developed in much the same manner as organizations began to finally recognize the need for chief information officers (CIO) as they began to recognize the strategic value of the information flowing through their organizations. It is still not broadly acknowledged that many organizations depend upon the flow of geographic information in order to be successful. This book helps us to realize that issue and to perceive the scope of issues and efforts that might be under the direction of a GIO, a geographic information officer. It is certainly my hope that the import of this work and other similar efforts may initiate a new field, the focus of which will be the institutional issues of developing large GIS programs. If this is so then we can anticipate a new source of social benefits as organizations become effective users and leaders in applying GIS to the many complex problems that we as a nation and as a world face. In the end that is the sole reason for the use of such advanced technological systems, to increase our abilities to understand and strive to solve the great many complex, meta-problems that our other advances in technology have thrust to the forefront and often created. It is my sincere wish that Professor Otawa’s fine effort will be viewed as a key step forward in this regard.” - Dr. Richard Taupier, Director, Office of Geographic Information and Analysis, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

“Toru Otawa’s Applied Land Informatics: Maximizing Power of GIS is a timely publication. From a geographic perspective, geospatial application tools can best be described as “on the verge of explosion” at local, regional national, and international levels. GIS applications are taking root, not only in western communities, but in the most remote corners of the planet as well. Even during fiscally conservative economic periods, the diffusion of geospatial applications continue to disseminate at very rapid rates. According to a NASA 2001 report, the current worldwide market for geospatial technologies is anticipated to grow to $30 billion by 2005, a dramatic increase that is being driven by the diffusion of new products and services in all sectors of government and industry. While Otawa’s book emphasizes geographic information systems (GIS) specifically, a majority of his arguments can, and should be extrapolated to include the broader context of geospatial tools (which, in addition to GIS, include global positioning systems [GPS], and remote sensing). Today, none of these geospatial tools stand alone in their own right. Otawa maintains, and rightfully so, that the success and social implications associated with the implementation and diffusion of geospatial applications to support additional products and services has not been examined in depth. This is due, in part, to the fact that researchers do not have an evaluation “framework” that enables them to incorporate additional criteria. Consultants, for example, often overemphasize technical assessments and data needs in “implementation strategies”. These factors are relatively easy to measure and account for. Furthermore, these factors are easily understood by constituents….. Otawa has acquired a wealth of information, that has been collected through experience and surveys….. This is a text that I will recommend to local, state, and federal organizations (both locally and internationally) who are anticipating implementing a GIS, or “upgrading” their existing applications and services. In addition, this is an excellent text for an advanced-level GIS class.” - John A. McGee, Ph.D, Geospatial Extension Specialist, Department of Forestry, Virginia Tech

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Preface, Acknowledgements
1. Introduction
2. Framework of Assessment Model
3. The Organizational Aspects of GIS Implementation
4. The Role of Management in Implementation
5. Human Resource Assessment for Implementation
6. Requirements for GIS Applications and Programs
7. Technical and Technological Factors and Their Relationship to Socio-Cultural Parameters
8. Organizational Diagnostics and Common Success Indicators
9. Results of Contingency Analysis on Perceptual Differences of Varied Groups
10. Maximizing Benefits from GIS
11. Conclusions