In the world of global health and development, making lasting and impactful decisions can mean the difference between saving lives and falling short of goals like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Every dollar invested in these efforts needs to be maximized for its potential impact. Enter Geographic Information Systems (GIS), an increasingly vital tool that's transforming how organizations allocate resources, track diseases, and plan interventions. As global health and development stakeholders and practitioners, it’s more important than ever to understand the evolving landscape of GIS and its potential to revolutionize global health and development efforts.
Geographic Information Systems, commonly known as GIS, is a powerful technology that harnesses geographic data to visualize, analyze, and interpret complex relationships and patterns. By integrating location-based data with various other types of information, GIS enables organizations to make more informed decisions. As Craig Nakagawa, former satellite executive of VillageReach and social entrepreneur explains, GIS is “all about making investments more targeted, locally relevant, and ultimately more impactful. ”.
GIS is “all about making investments more targeted, locally relevant, and ultimately more impactful".
The pivotal role of GIS became strikingly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the rapid spread of the novel virus, organizations needed to deploy resources strategically. GIS enabled health authorities to map infection hotspots, track the movement of the virus, and allocate medical supplies efficiently. The ability to plan interventions at hyper-local levels was critical in containing the virus's spread. This experience highlighted GIS as a cornerstone in global health and development efforts.
While GIS is often associated with disease surveillance, its potential stretches far beyond tracking diseases. GIS enables seeing vertical programs as integrated from the context of location, allowing organizations to connect the dots across traditionally siloed interventions, helping to identify opportunities for collaboration and intersection points. Take, for instance, initiatives targeting women: GIS can assist in bridging vertical programs that target women's health, education, and income generation, leading to more cohesive and impactful interventions.
Despite the recognition of GIS's importance, there's a need for a more concerted and collaborative approach to leveraging its capabilities. The challenge lies in fostering a higher level of coordination among organizations, ensuring that the power of GIS is fully harnessed. Intentional Futures and our partners envision a future where global health and development stakeholders come together to learn, share experiences, and strategize.
So, where does GIS go from here? As the global health and development landscape continues to evolve, the potential applications of GIS are vast and varied. From disease surveillance to women’s programs, from environmental monitoring to disaster response, GIS can enhance decision-making across the board.
As the global health and development community moves forward, embracing GIS as an essential tool and fostering collaboration will be pivotal. It's time to realize the power of GIS in transforming the way we allocate resources, plan interventions, and ultimately make a positive impact on the lives of individuals around the world.