education to culture. One city official said Gothenberg is a leader in GIS because it has consistently focused on manageable projects, eventually leading to citywide adoption. In addition, the city's elected officials actively supported the strategic development of GIS, providing financial and political support.
Although the technology is being used in even the most remote parts of the world, applications will depend upon multiple factors including a country's economic and political history. In developing nations, GIS can help define what the landscape of a country looks like now and what it may become. ESRI's Thomas said Thailand is using GIS as a tool for urban planning. In Latin America, particularly in Columbia, GIS is focused on crime analysis and public safety. And, the Israeli police use GIS in the public safety and defense arena.
Japan recently launched an aggressive e-government campaign that is using GIS data for management and planning. The island-nation is tracking development to maintain its natural and historical beauty as populations migrate from urban centers, potentially changing the traditional character of the land.
But, one of the most daunting efforts at mapping a country whose character is radically changing is taking place in Eastern Europe. The former Soviet Union was a palette of state-owned land with meaningless or nonexistent boundaries. Scrambling to create economic opportunities, Russia looked to private ownership of land as a resource. "Now they realize that one way to leverage money is to sell property and then tax it," said Kevin Daugherty, special projects manager for ESRI, who spent the last decade working with the Russian government. "Land reform in the former Soviet Union is one of the biggest things going for economic growth. GIS is at the core of that effort."
In the former Soviet Union, there had been no businesses for land or aerial photography or surveying, "You need the infrastructure as well as the technology to even begin to construct a parcel of land," Daugherty said. Early projects included some failed procurements as Russians learned about the world marketplace. The changes also required new legislation and political buy-in -- still a challenge in Russia as local jurisdictions continue to distrust the federal government.
Today, Russia is buying GIS for other uses, such as crime analysis and police work, utility and forestry management, and emergency management. Daugherty said the Russian Central Bank uses GIS to analyze the flow of money and tax generation.
Creating New Opportunities
GIS applications are key to development for many emerging nations, helping facilitate changes that might otherwise take centuries, according to URISA's Gentes. "Land records in the old Soviet Union and Latin America are often sketchy and confused," he said. "GIS is allowing them to go from 16th century, archaic land deeds to precise-to-the-inch recording of actual boundaries and land management issues."
Gentes, who is also the mayor of Round Lake, Ill., observed the power of GIS in an emerging economy during 9-11 when URISA members were at an annual conference in Jamaica. Stranded there during the air travel ban, he investigated and was impressed by the country's use of GIS.
"The prime minister has given a lot of ownership to the minister of the interior, who has a complete shop that manages GIS throughout the entire country," Gentes said. "They have a very sophisticated operation. The political leadership saw the value and they realized what GIS could do for them."
Gentes said he had a similar experience in his own Illinois village and now insists that all decisions are made with the aid of a GIS map.
Political buy-in and executive support is critical to getting value from GIS. "Educating leaders on the value of GIS, can help them see why a project is worthwhile," he said. "I see the value inherently,