How Can GIS Be Used During The Pandemic?
Ever felt lost en route to a meeting place and had to fire up the Google Maps app on your mobile phone? Checked the weather forecast before planning a picnic with friends? You may not know it, but either of these activities would have been much harder to accomplish without the development of Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
So, what exactly is GIS? GIS market leader Esri defines it as “a framework for gathering, managing and analysing data. Rooted in the science of geography, GIS integrates many types of data. It analyses spatial location and organises layers of information into visualisations using maps and 3D scenes.”1 As you can probably guess, such big data enables easier analysis of geographical patterns and relationships - a trait that has proven particularly useful during the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Making a Global Impact
According to Agendra Kumar, President of Esri India, GIS has played a highly significant role in the response to COVID-19 by public health agencies, policymakers and administrators. For instance, by utilising GIS capabilities such as spatial analytics, mapping and location intelligence, health officials are able to map confirmed and active cases, fatalities and recoveries to identify possible infection sites.2
The Esri 5-step process for mapping the COVID-19 pandemic is as follows: mapping the cases, spread, vulnerable populations and capacity, as well as communicating with maps.3 In a nutshell, the process works due to time-enabled maps revealing how infections spread over time throughout different regions. This allows for timely intervention such as relocating the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.
If all this sounds like a lot of work, that's because it truly is! In the United States alone, hundreds of Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) GISCorps volunteers have been working since March 2020 to build a nationwide COVID-19 Testing Sites feature service4, poring through websites of health departments, healthcare providers, cities, counties and states to find and verify testing site locations and requirements.
Becoming a GIS Professional
Like any other trade, you will first need to equip yourself with the right tools. That's where a Bachelor of Science (Geographic Information Science) programme can come in handy, giving you access to cutting-edge knowledge, skills and abilities in using geospatial sciences, remote sensing, locational analysis and geographic visualisation. You will even gain theoretical and practical experience in solving geospatial problems across a variety of geographic realms including the environment, health, cities and social media.
Better yet, career opportunities as a Geographic Information Science (GIS) professional are as diverse as the many countries within Earth's geography. Fancy the development and production of maps? Cartography could be your calling! Always been known as a tech whiz among your friends? Perhaps building and maintaining databases as a GIS specialist would suit you. Or if studying the earth's atmosphere in order to forecast weather conditions is right up your alley, you just might be a budding meteorologist. What is clear is that you'll never fear a lack of career options:
- Computer analyst
- Environmental scientist/manager
- GIS specialist
- Health care
- Market research analyst
- Natural resource manager
- Urban and transportation planner
Mapping Out the Right Choice
With so many career opportunities post a Geographic Information Science degree, it's heartening to know that they pay well on the whole. In a 2017 URISA GIS salary survey of more than 3,000 full-time GIS employees, the average salary of respondents was US$71,000, an increase of 15 percent over 2010.5 Thankfully, starting a career in this field can be made easier with the help of a trusted education provider.
The Bachelor of Science (Geographic Information Science) course offered by SIM in collaboration with the University at Buffalo offers several advantages including a high quality and interactive American education, alongside full accreditation and recognition of UB degrees - you may even study one semester in Buffalo's home campus in the US! In fact, you can even save a whole chunk of change with lower tuition costs as compared to studying in the US.
To find out more about how to start your GIS journey with a Geographic Information Science degree at SIM GE, check out the GIS courses on our website and make a more informed decision!
1 Esri: What is GIS? (https://www.esri.com/en-us/what-is-gis/overview)
2 The Economic Times, 26 Mar 2020: How enterprises are using GIS to track Covid-19 impact (https://cio.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/strategy-and-management/how-enterprises-are-using-gis-to-track-covid-19-impact/74821102)
3 Esri: The GIS community responds to the COVID-19 crisis (https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/feaf86dac1584a84978a5e49d62266ca)
4 URISA: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates, Education & Resources (https://www.urisa.org/coronavirus)
5 URISA: URISA GIS Salary Survey (https://www.urisa.org/gis-salaries)
Posted online, 27 Apr 2021