GIS in the Philippines

From Iskomunidad

I. Definition and Description: Geographic Information System

GIS is a rapidly growing technological field that incorporates graphical features with tabular data in order to assess real-world problems. What is now the GIS field began around 1960, with the discovery that map could be programmed using simple code and then stored in a computer allowing for future modification when necessary. This was a welcome change from the era of hand cartography when maps had to be painstakingly created by hand; even small changes could require the creation of a new map. The earliest version of a GIS was known as computer cartography and involved simple line work to represent land features. From that evolved the concept of overlaying different mapped features on top of each other to determine patterns and causes of spatial phenomenon.

The capabilities of GIS are a far cry from the simple beginnings of computer cartography. At the simplest level, GIS can be thought of as a high-tech equivalent of a map. However, not only can paper maps be produced far quicker and more efficiently, the storage of data in an easily accessible digital format enables complex analysis and modeling not previously possible. The reach of GIS expands into all disciplines and has been used for such widely ranged problems as prioritizing sensitive species habitat to determining optimal real estate locations for new businesses.

The key word to this technology is Geography - this usually means that the data (or at least some proportion of the data) is spatial, in other words, data that is in some way referenced to locations on the earth. Coupled with this data is usually tabular data known as attribute data.
A geographic information system (GIS) integrates hardware, software, and data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information in order to solve complex planning and management problems. A simple definition is that GIS is a computer system which can hold and use data in describing places on the earth’s surface.

A GIS can be divided into five components: People, Data, Hardware, Software, and Procedures. People are the vital component of GIS. They are the ones who actually make the GIS work. They are responsible for maintenance of the geographic database and provide technical support. People also need to be educated to make decisions on what type of system to use. People associated with a GIS can be categorized into: viewers, general users, and GIS specialists. Viewers are the public at large whose only need is to browse a geographic database for referential material. General Users are people who use GIS to conducting business, performing professional services, and making decisions. GIS specialists are responsible for the maintenance of the geographic database and the provision of technical support to the other two classes of users.

Procedures include how the data will be retrieved, input into the system, stored, managed, transformed, analyzed, and finally presented in a final output.
Hardware consists of the technical equipment needed to run a GIS including a computer system with enough power to run the software, enough memory to store large amounts of data, and input and output devices such as scanners, digitizers, GPS data loggers, media disks, and printers.
Software packages must be capable of data input, storage, management, transformation, analysis, and output, but the appearance, methods, resources, and ease of use of the various systems may be very different. Today’s software packages are capable of allowing both graphical and descriptive data to be stored in a single database, known as the object-relational model.

Perhaps the most time consuming and costly aspect of initiating a GIS is creating a database. There are several things to consider before acquiring geographic data. It is crucial to check the quality of the data before obtaining it. Errors in the data set can add many unpleasant and costly hours to implementing a GIS and the results and conclusions of the GIS analysis most likely will be wrong.

Geographic information system technology can be used for scientific investigations, resource management, asset management, archaeology, environmental impact assessment, urban planning, cartography, criminology, geographic history, marketing, logistics, Prospectivity Mapping, and other purposes. For example, GIS might allow emergency planners to easily calculate emergency response times in the event of a natural disaster, GIS might be used to find wetlands that need protection from pollution, or GIS can be used by a company to site a new business location to take advantage of a previously under-served market.

Common practical applications include mapping out environmental layers to characterize a site and predict site potential. GIS helps in routing of roads, transmission lines, pipelines, sewer, and network analysis. It maps and manages urban infrastructure including base maps, tax, cubs, water supply, drainage, electricity, telephone, and gas. Another application is spatially examining socio and economic indicators of the population and their use in planning and growth management. There are literally thousands of applications of GIS because no project is ever started without first asking ‘where’.

II. Providers of GIS in the Philippines

There are already numerous providers (by which we mean those which enables the people to use the system) of GIS in the Philippines. One of them is GeoData Solutions Inc., which is an international provider of GIS in the Philippines. It was formed just two years ago and focuses on air research and exploration. Their services comprise of surveying, acquisition of data, and data processing and analysis.
Another provider of GIS in the Philippines is the Region 8 GIS Network which is based locally. Realizing the arising problems in our ecosystem, the University of the Philippines in the Visayas Tacloban College decided to support projects regarding LGU and GIS. The network was launched last March 2001 having eighteen member institutions that are spread across Region 8. Their objectives are:
• To create a meta data base catalogue,
• To develop mechanism to improve accessibility of data,
• To link GIS facilities by promoting cooperation and data exchange between member institutions,
• To formulate mechanisms to standardize methods for data collection and processing for GIS applications,
• To strengthen data and information management in Region VIII,
• To assist needs of network members in developing programs and projects for sustainable development of Region VIII,
• Develop a core group of trainers who will extend assistance to network members,
• To develop qualified GIS manpower,
• Forge linkages with international and national research organizations to enhance the network’s sources and data, and
• To help promote adoption of GIS in academic courses at State Colleges and Universities

The institution is focused on the development and improvement of Region 8. Being aware of the high costs of GIS technology, it has connected and worked with many different units to spread cost and responsibility.

Regional Environmental Information Systems (REIS) work hand in hand with the Region 8 GIS Network.. It produces data about natural and environmental resources that are used in the study and analysis for the development of the region. It also offers training and seminars on topics under GIS.
Region 8 has programs and strategies for the accomplishment of their goals. First is human capital. Region 8 is focused on the competency of their staff. They want their staff to be the best and most efficient, therefore providing continuous training and supervision. They want to make good leaders in the industry.
Another is information management. Information is most efficiently used when organized and managed. The institution works on having fast, reliable computers and desktop PCS to enhance communication and access to information. They work on upgrading their internal systems. They ensure that high quality data will be available to the public for the benefit of the whole region.

Thirdly, Region 8 focuses on science. They are willing to invest a lot of time and effort for research and development. They have programs that grants funding and gives opportunities related to science. They have a laboratory that supports analytical chemistry, microbiology, macroinvertebrate analysis, biological toxicity testing, laboratory auditsand field data collection.

Another known provider of GIS in the Philippines is the GIS Tailor-Made Inc. It is specialized in Geographic Information Systems that are specifically tailored to its client needs and preferences. Many companies around the world fail to optimize the use of spatial information. You need to have the right data, and convert them into the required format or digitize existing paper materials. Once you acquire these data, a logical and structured database is usually not developed. This means that the data is not as useful is it might have been.

GIS Tailor-Made operates internationally but resides in Cebu, Philippines. Cebu is equipped with highly educated labor force and is proven by the growing investment rates in the city. GIS Tailor-Made combine their employees' skills and diligence with their international experience to cater good services to its clients.

With its highly skilled employees and international experience, GIS Tailor-Made offers its clients a unique range of services. It specializes in the elements of GIS that are time and labor consuming. With this, the clients can focus on the works that are more valuable. Among these services are:
• Digitizing Paper Maps
• Building Spatial Data sets
• Building Spatial Websites
• GIS Training
• Project Management

Most of the spatial data exist on paper. In order to utilize these to GIS, plans, maps, and designs need to be digital. This process is both time and labor consuming. After digitizing these data, there still much to benefit when these are logically built, organized, and checked. With this and complete with the necessary meta-information enhances the value of the data of the clients greatly. GIS Tailor-Made has also gained much experience in defining, designing and delivering GIS trainings. These trainings and workshops are tailored to the needs of the clients and if possible with their data too.
GIS Tailor-Made has gained significant experiences in applying GIS and training staff in GIS and spatial information in many organizations worldwide.
Geographic Information Systems and related services are an increasingly important factors of Enterprise IT infrastructure. GIS-sourced data, often through centralized GIS databases and inventories, play key roles in business operations like job control for mobile workers, enterprise resource planning, and situation awareness.
Logica has been a consistent large GIS provider of the Philippines. It has implemented one of the world's largest geospatial information systems for the water industry serving 6.3 million customers while its software supports the missions of a third of the world's satellites. Logica's GIS capabilities enable it to offer immediate services to its clients who are seeking GIS functionality in their business operations. Among its services are:
• consultancy and design
• the creation of customized GIS applications
• implementation and onward trainings
Some companies have the partnerships and competencies in place to offer solutions to their clients from databases to enterprise application platforms and integration. This total weight of knowledge and competence can all be contained in what Logica describes as Geo-ICT. Geo-ICT applications are widespread into a diverse range of sectors from telecommunications, industry, transport and logistics all the way to the public sector.
Logica started its Geo-ICT operations with GIS based command and control solutions for public safety authorities which include the emergency medical services, police, defense and fire and rescue. Implementations have resulted in a success in majority share of the domestic market. With these command and control solutions, emergency services including medical dispatch, and fire and rescue services can now monitor and manage information which can save time and effort.

III. Users of GIS

Geographic Information System, or GIS as it is more commonly known, is usually perceived by the general public as useful only to the natural sciences. It is as misunderstood and misconceived as much as the discipline of geography itself is. People tend to think of GIS as all maps of terrains, the same way people think geography as a discipline that covers cartography. GIS encompasses much more than what people usually conceive as just Google Earth, Global Positioning Systems, and odd-looking maps.

Though its most known use is Global Positioning Systems, Geographic Information Systems can be applied in several fields. Aside from the usual disciplines of geology, natural resource management, and natural hazard management, most people do not seem to know that GIS is being utilized in such fields as agriculture, business, urban planning, archaeology, health, military, and utility (which includes power, telecommunications, and transportation, among others).
A Geographic Information System gathers, analyzes, and manages any kind of information that is related to location. Gathering (and presenting) such data that may reveal patterns and other trends that may not have been revealed or noticed otherwise could prove crucial for businesses and their survival in the vicious world of business.

Locally, our GIS providers offer the usual things you would expect from a Geographic Information System, such as Raster-Vector Conversion Map Digitizing and Satellite Image Processing, but they also offer such services as 3D Solid Modelling Architectural Walk Throughs. This just means that your 2D drawing can be turned into a 3D model. As a 3D model, the user can now view the drawing from all angles (zoom in, rotate, etc.). Being able to show your clients your proposed idea like that would most certainly make for an impressive presentation.

In the business world, GIS is being used to manage mobile resources (logistics), manage customer relationships, analyze markets, study consumers’ spending patterns, and look for the optimal places for business ventures, to name a few. As has been said time and time again, competition, especially now with the worldwide economic crisis, is getting more and more fierce, and therefore, businesses need every advantage they can manage to get their hands on to survive and flourish. The image below shows how GIS can be used to find the best possible locations for a particular business. The results from that, with further analysis and consideration by the management, could yield very relevant data that may considerably influence how well an enterprise turns out.

GIS is already being used for the National Transmission Corporation, TRANSCO (which takes care of NAPOCOR’s electrical transmission), for a few districts here in the Philippines. GIS will give them digitized mapping for their energy assets. Through a certain application called Transmission Asset Management Information System (TAMIS), TRANSCO “will be able to display, query, and analyze digital maps for data such as best route to a facility, obstacles along a transmission route, land ownership where transmission lines pass, topography, aerial imagery, fault locator, and so on. ”In choosing to utilize GIS, TRANSCO will have access to digital maps of their assets- their “offices, warehouses, substations, communication relay stations, transmission lines, towers, control centers, communication facilities, and fiber-optic cables,” as well as thematic maps showing “administrative boundaries, public infrastructure, road networks, river and water bodies, vegetation cover, land use, land classification, tenurial rights, soils and geology, protected areas and indigenous peoples sites, hazard areas, and some demographic data.” Access to this data elevated TRANSCO’s status; it made it more in tune with world standards, which is of course imperative for any enterprise, government operated or otherwise.

Furthermore, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) GIS unit serves to acquire spatial data for agencies like DENR. This is used for classification and management of land use, along with a combined, detailed, and illustrative presentation of bio-physical and socio-economic data- definitely a significant help. With the earth’s dwindling natural resources, this is valuable as we now need to utilize, to the best of our ability, every bit of land that we have.

In addition, the Philippine government should rely on GIS much more than they currently do. It has been suggested by a few local experts that one of the things the government could use GIS for is traffic accident management. With traffic here in Metro Manila constantly getting a little bit worse, and since we always want to reduce the number of occurring road accidents that result to injuries and deaths, this grows increasingly valuable. The figure below shows one of the proposed systems in traffic accident management. In the proposed system, several isolated sites will be connected to a Wide Area Network, which will gather and store all the data that will be submitted by the isolated sites. The data gathered from the system will be programmed through an interface program. The main server can, with all this data, present the user/s with a map showing where accidents most often occur, and present reports regarding all the areas covered.

Based on the economic preview as the world has triggered a business slump and slowdown due to financial crisis, the worrying effect in the Philippines would push us to rethink on how to find a way to do business smarter using in-house resources. And through investing and using GIS would help resolve many business organizations to overcome operational challenges and deliver improved profitability.

All business investors in the Philippines like retailers, insurers, realtors, asset managers and others are seeking to understand markets better than ever before and through GIS, this technology will assists in many ways like optimizing business openings and closings, segmenting customer data and managing fleets. Since GIS can visualize, manage and analyze any business assets like employees, customers, and facilities because it has a place in the world or within the country to put at.

One interesting institution who is using GIS is Economic and Social Research Institute(ESRI), a software development and services company providing Geographic Information System (GIS) software and geo-database management applications, where two government institutions in the Philippines the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority(NAMRIA) and Sugar Regulatory Administration(SRA) are a member. The headquarters of ESRI is in Redlands, California.

ESRI had developed a “project life cycle” implementing a GIS technology to assist and start up a complex project. Because using a GIS is like building a house where you need a solid foundation and quality materials in the construction and details to make it sure is stands and to consider who will you hire to do the job. Inter-relating it to what business project we wanted to start up now especially during this time of crisis where we are very cautious that it will survive as what we wanted to propel it. And through using GIS, step by step we are keen and meticulous on how to start right and generating a good profit in the end.

That during requirements analysis, you will perform a rigorous requirements-gathering process, which involves business process analysis and high-level use case identification. From the business processes and use cases, we derive detailed requirements that are documented for each use case and reviewed separately by quality assurance staff to ensure they can be tested later and are quantifiable. This results in better, more clearly defined requirements, which are then outlined in a specification document that you can then use as the blueprint for the design. Using a set of GIS software functions, The design team uses specialized software that lets them to build a comprehensive design document directly from the requirements specification that will guide the developers throughout the development process.

Also, Geodata System and Mapping Solutions in the Philippines is using the GIS which enable them to capture, manipulate and visualize all forms of geographically reference information for mapping and analyzing things that exist and events that happen.
GIS gave them the spatial data that will location of real world objects, events and answers that derived by comparing layers of data. Thus using GIS will give you the benefits of increasing your efficiency, manage your resources, time and money well at high level of accuracy.

IV. Assessment of the Technology: Analysis and Suggested Applications

Being an information system in itself, Geographic Information Systems have a wide variety of uses from any field of study. The use of information is always a key ingredient for success in any field. The system utilizes spatial gathering, or basically, data collection techniques regarding the place. One of its major strengths is the fact that the data collected from the places are not limited to the topography and physical shape of the terrain as it can find out almost anything and everything regarding the place from its people to the structures within and even the congestion. This proves to be a tool that is useful in all branches of society.

GIS can be an integral part of making business decisions. According to Economics, markets work well if there is perfect information. It is therefore tantamount to saying that without information, a company could experience sudden misfortunes that it could have otherwise avoided had they had information about it.

Firstly, it is a great marketing tool. GIS provides data that can be stored in databases and given the right query can reveal trends and data about consumer spending, foot traffic, feasibility, salability and etc. Marketing deals a whole lot on knowing about the place and where to put their products so that it can sell. Using the data, a marketer can tell which place will sell like hotcakes and which place won’t. GIS is not limited to a city alone and can go to the lengths of gathering information from certain supermarkets, groceries and the like to satisfy the questions when it comes to market segmentation, audience targeting and market efficiency. Finding the perfect place for one’s products is crucial for making a product sell. It also lays down the groundwork for businesses to start promotions.

One clear example is if a company decides to post a billboard in EDSA, one would need data about how traffic a certain parts of EDSA are and how many people can actually see the boards. Strategic placing is an integral use of GIS. The use of GIS aims to be able to build customer relationships in an indirect manner. It really helps bring about brand awareness.

Secondly, it is a good logistics tool. Still related to marketing, one may want to create a launch or campaign for one’s products. Or if not marketing, companies may want to host events for its employees and staff. With GIS, one can determine the place they can use for their needs. GIS also serves as a tool to create 3D layouts of the places. It can give the users a good look into the place and show the layout to higher officers concerned who may not have the time to go to the place themselves. For deliveries, GIS is a vital tool to know which routes to take to increase efficiency. GIS can gather information regarding traffic flow, efficiency of drainage systems, road distances and the like that can be calculated to find the best route to take. Without this sort of information, customers can become dissatisfied with the service of the company and decide not to patronize the company anymore.

An example of an efficient use of this can be the delivery systems of famous food chains such as Jollibee, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Greenwich and etc. The call centers that take the orders can simply query on their database on the best route to take and call up the branch that best suits the delivery needs of the company. There have been complaints about McDonald’s delivery service and if they decided to get GIS for their company, then, it would be much more efficient and fewer customers would be frustrated waiting for their products.

Aside from business, the previous parts have elaborated the various strengths and opportunities that the system has. It could definitely be used to fix the traffic situation within the country given that the decrease in oil prices has increased congestion in the metro. A good example of the proper use of GIS in Metro Manila is the elevated u-turn along infamous C-5 intersection. It is infamous because it is known to cause traffic that could last for an hour. The smart solution that the MMDA utilized was that they learned through GIS that the congestion was caused by the intersection itself and the heavy use of that road. They therefore implemented the elevated u-turn and the traffic situation there has decreased. This and others have been elaborated more at the users of GIS section.

One of the weaknesses however of GIS is the burden in the collection of data. The set-up of the databases for the sake of collection of GIS is a task that can’t be done by one individual with one computer alone as it really needs a group. After being able to collect data, there are already faster systems that can give queries to give the user trends and patterns that they may not have discovered. Another weakness of GIS is the fact that it does not have ease of access. Most providers of GIS cater to the government and big companies and that is because they have the capabilities to get their own data. Smaller companies have to resort to hiring a provider that can help them collect the data. The cost of this is big on small companies and it really is hard to implement. Also, a company must have their own data warehouse to store all this data. Spatial data along with inventory data, logistics data and marketing data can be a real heavy load for companies.

A threat to GIS is the lack of personnel who can interpret the data. Not everyone has studied much of Geography to truly understand the patterns and trends taken from the data. This however is being solved by the providers through programming of more user-friendly interfaces. They can still however fail to include variables when making their queries, which can deter the output given by the system.

Another threat to GIS is if the data is not collected properly. GIS is still flawed depending on human error. If the data has not been collected properly, the solutions that GIS has given might be lacking in information. All threats basically to GIS is regarded on human error. The system is just something programmed and wrong programming can also lead to failure in decision-making.

But aside from a few flaws, the system is a great way for users to gain information power that is so needed in any field of study.

V. Conclusion

Geographic Information System, or GIS, has already started to show that it would be a great help not only to people who are lost in the wilderness with only their GPS device as a guide, but to people who would like to run a healthy business as well. From being an integration of maps drawn by hand, GIS now enables users to be able to know more about a certain location. By more, it is not only meant that one can know the exact location of a place, but also its relative location. Not only can one know the elevation of a certain spot in the map, he may also find out how many people are passing through the street going to that spot, how to easily go to that spot through other alternate routes, and many more.

A businessman may use GIS such that the orders placed to his restaurant which has many branches may be distributed not only based on the nearest branch to the source of the order, but also based on how many workers are available on each branch.

Traffic agencies such as MMDA have already found that with the help of GIS, they are able to control not only the number of public vehicles on each bus stop, but also how long each bus stays on a certain spot.

However, with all these existing and possible uses of GIS, it is undeniable that here in the Philippines, GIS and all of its components and applications are not widely known to the people. Though it might seem amazing when an ordinary person gets to know that there exists such Information System used by the Government and businesses, GIS should be more publicly known. More people should be able to get a hand on GIS-based applications. Though there are already mobile phones that are GPS-enabled, and some cellular network companies (i.e. Globe Telecom) already imply similar applications by being able to know a certain person’s location through his mobile number, these services are not widely known as well. These services are like hidden treasures, wherein one needs to search thoroughly and passionately to be able to find them and use them.
What needs to be done is to introduce GIS formally to the ordinary people. GIS must be able to reach out to them, such that they would be able to know how the system works and know and use at least some of its applications.

By now, we can say that it is evident that the only people in the Philippines who know about GIS are those who are involved with it in their work and study – geographers, businessmen, and some of the government officials.

If Geographic Information System would be able to reach out to the people – through available services, or knowing how certain events in their daily lives such as deliveries from a fast food restaurant are managed – it would bring a great evolution to the knowledge of the people, who are the main consumers of the byproduct of this system.

Also, once this happens, it is not only the people who will benefit, but also the businessmen or government officials. Since people will have a hands-on experience on the information system, they would be able to provide feedback to the improvement of the technology. In conclusion, GIS is a very great Information System – it has many applications that ease everybody’s life. But it would be a waste if it would be limited only to those who benefit greatly from it.