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Nov 15, 2023

Using Geographic Information Systems to Sort out Life

Geographic Information Systems, or G.I.S. technology, can be used for all types of tasks, including scientific investigations, as well as development and planning.  As we discovered today, G.I.S. can even be used to take a population survey or stock of what houses are made of for national emergency data. Utility companies use G.I.S. to determine areas that need additional service, and the military relies on it to determine where they are in reference to the borderline. In this week’s edition of the Five Point Breakdown, Marion Ali takes a closer look at G.I.S. technology that was on display today at the Eighth G.I.S. Day Expo at the Princess Ramada Hotel and how it is used to make our lives that much easier.


Marion Ali, Reporting

Does it ever pique your interest how air traffic control personnel can make the job look so easy to not have any airplane collisions on the runway or in the skies approaching an airport? The traffic is controlled by integrated geographic information systems or G.I.S., which pegs each outgoing or incoming flight’s location and time of arrival or departure in order to provide that safety while also managing ground-side operations. You may ask: What is G.I.S?


What is GIS?


Loretta Palacio

Loretta Palacio, Managing Director, Total Business Solutions Limited

“GIS is a system. It stands for Geographic Information System, and it’s a system that creates, manages, analyzes information. So the difference that GIS makes is that you collect data, you put it in Excel, you put it in Word, any database. GIS puts a spatial reference. When I say spatial reference, I mean a location element to it – a geographical location, yeah, latitude, longitude, I always use that.”


Loretta Palacio is the Managing Director of Total Business Solutions Limited, which is a mapping and G.I.S Company and the distributor for Esri – the world’s leading mapping and G.I.S Company. She explains how G.I.S helps in determining important information we depend on.


How G.I.S Works


Loretta Palacio

“Whether we’re looking at elevation, where do I want to build a resort that’s on the highest part of Belize, you have to look at elevation data. You’re buying a piece of land and you want to check what are the features in that area: is it a flood prone area, what’s the soil type? Maybe you want to plant citrus or papaya. You already know what type of soil papaya needs or bananas, so there we go. So GIS allows us to look at data spatially on a map. Spatially means that it’s on a map and it supports business intelligence.”


Weather forecasters often times rely on satellite imagery and radar information in order to advise us on how the week will look weather-wise. This is also a form of G.I.S. that can be used to determine other things, as Palacio explains.


Loretta Palacio

“That heat map right over there [shows] the rain that came the first week of November.  And the heat map that I’m referring to is November 5th. So we collaborated with the Meteorological Service, Miss Young, they provided data, and we could see a heat map of how the rain affected the country of Belize. So, we’re talking about various industries, various uses.”


G.I.S also provides information that lets us determine where to build what and where not to.


G.I.S Determines Best-Suited Locations


Loretta Palacio

“You can look at digital elevation model. You can look at what is going on with this area, the elevation above sea level, for example. I don’t think I want to build this theater here. I don’t think I want to build this school here, because you flew a drone or you got satellite imagery from a company and the data – that drone footage is put into a GIS. So GIS can look at just a record where the building is, the description of the building, who works there and what it does, and the annual revenue and all that kind of stuff.”


But now that we have this level of advanced technology at our fingertips, which demonstrates how easy it is to navigate rugged terrain virtually, it begs the question, how difficult was it to get the necessary information before this all came into being? G.I.S Expert at the Belize Defense Force,

Lieutenant Edwin Varela gives us an idea.


How Difficult Was Accessing Spatial Data Before G.I.S?


Lt. Edwin Varela

Lieutenant Edwin Varela, G.I.S. Intelligence Officer, B.D.F.

“I can only imagine based on documentaries, based on what my research, how it used to be done back then, it was very hectic, but not to say that some of it has gone away, we still do map reading. What we do at the Belize Defense Force with GIS, which is a fundamental part of how we plan operations at the BDF, and that includes, you know, being able to gather the data, which happens throughout, not only, daily, but throughout the years. This is data that we use then to do proper planning at the strategic and all the way down to the tactical level, which will benefit the soldiers and at the ministry.”


Loretta Palacio

“It was very cumbersome.  It was taking them a lot longer to get back to the customer, or to do what the ministry or department or company needed to do because when you go and map a house or a meter, you just bring it up,  and you’re at that house. And they allow the field workers certain information.”


Given the nature of geographical information then, it is not farfetched to see the logic behind its use by the utility companies to determine what areas their services are needed. But did you know that G.I.S is also used for conducting surveys? The Statistical Institute of Belize depends greatly on geo-technology, according to that Institute’s G.I.S Officer, Maritza Canto.


G.I.S Technology Also Used for Surveys


Maritza Canto

Maritza Canto, G.I.S. Officer, Statistical Institute of Belize

“At the SIB, we currently use GIS for the Population and Housing Census where we currently map all the building footprints throughout the country and this encompasses approximately 180, 000 buildings. Of this, approximately 150, 000 are households and we also collected information such as the building use Building classification, roof type, wall type, etc. And that information is used for what? We collect additional information so that this can assist NEMO, for example, to be able to conduct natural disaster analysis and assessment prior to incoming storm or tropical disaster.”


Marion Ali for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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