The best way to understand GIS is to consider some issues of concern to Colorado. The Hayman fire burned vast areas of the state. As the fire consumed suburban Denver counties, responders needed to know WHERE infrastructure, residences and resources were. The National Interagency Fire Center, planning the deployment of federal firefighters, needed to know where new housing was located. After the fire was extinguished, health and environment agencies needed to know the extent of the burned areas and where water was relative to these areas to assess the potential for contamination of water due to runoff from the burned areas.
Another example relates to sales tax allocation. Businesses must determine the taxes they collect based on the taxation district they are in or where goods are delivered. For the Department of Revenue or the business itself, this is a critical geographic problem of mapping addresses and comparing them to tax district boundaries.
One of the Governor's policy initiatives concerns alternative energy. The state legislature passed Senate Bill 07-91, which mandated assessing and mapping these optimal locations for renewable energy development. This geographic analysis was based on the availability of the resources and proximity to energy transmission infrastructure. It is being used for needed economic development to rural areas as well.
Information about where things are located is known as geospatial information. Geospatial information underlies almost all activities undertaken by government. The systems for managing, analyzing and displaying this information, known as geographic information systems (GIS), or geospatial information technologies, are used by several Colorado state agencies and many local governments.