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How GIS will impact your community

What is GIS?

GIS stands for Geographic Information System, which as the title implies, is a systematic approach to gathering information about the communities and land we live on. 

Once we assemble this information we use it to accurately represent the current needs and potential risks as it pertains to our communities. Armed with this accurate information, the OFNTSC can help its member communities make better decisions about their infrastructure and use of resources.  

In short, GIS is three systems working together to make combined representations of those systems. They are:

  • A system of Records
  • A system of Insight
  • A system of Engagement

Why is GIS important

The importance of GIS lies in how it gives us access to information in an efficient manner. This accessibility will allow us to communicate about, identify, and resolve problems much faster in the future. 

Having important information available at your fingertips can be an essential tool in many technical areas that OFNTSC assists with. Consider these situations:

1. A GIS database would have the record of construction updates to a community Water Treatment Plant. If there is a mechanical problem caused by one of these updates, OFNTSC’s HUB program, having immediate access to these records, may find a solution days sooner than they otherwise would have. This saves the community time and money and returns drinking water to the people much more quickly.

2. A community housing development was built years ago and the records were recorded to a GIS mapping system. While accessing this information through an OFNTSC portal, a community leader realized that some of the building materials used have since been deemed a fire hazard. This allows the community leader to quickly take action, initiating a project to replace those building materials, and proactively keeping their community members safe from an unforeseen disaster.

These are just 2 hypothetical examples that lend themselves to the importance of creating a centralized GIS system to be accessed by OFNTSC and its member First Nations.

What does GIS look like?

You might be asking what this system actually looks like? How will it manifest in the hands of OFNTSC Staff?

The answer to that is simple: many different ways! The information gathered can be used and represented in many ways that will help OFNTSC and First Nations make good decisions. 

Most notably, there are many digital solutions that can help OFNTSC staff by allowing them to use interactive maps (see fig. A). 

curve lake GIS map
Figure A

With this solution, an employee can simply pick a section of the map and access information about its land type, current use,  and records of any building or other community infrastructure that may be included in that map section.  

Other solutions include:

  • A field enablement toolkit that can be leveraged across service areas and projects.
  • Creation of an asset management registry and spatial database.
  • A visualization solution for monitoring the progress of capital projects. 
  • Mapping and visualization of First Nation fuel storage & retailers. 
  • Spatial analysis of housing development vs compliance codes. 
  • Spatial analysis of high-risk communities to target fire prevention measures.

What are the objectives of the GIS being implemented at OFNTSC? 

The main objectives of the GIS program at OFNTSC are:

OBJECTIVE 1: "To establish a centralized database of information that can help OFNTSC better deliver our services to First Nations."

OBJECTIVE 2: To create a publicly accessible portal where First Nations communities can easily search through the information, utilize the applications, and access training resources.

To accomplish these objectives some steps involved include:

  • Establishing a core set of geospatial services driven by a dedicated GIS program, organizational structure, and an organizationally aligned service delivery model. 
  • The creation of a Self-Service ArcGis On-Line (AGOL) Portal. This will allow OFNTSC Stakeholders to easily search authoritative Geospatial data, leverage applications, and access training resources, all in one location.
  • Establishing a set of data governance policies to certify the quality, usage, and ownership of spatial information used for decision-making.
  • Creating reliable and operational, mobile-enabled field-to-office workflows, connecting inspectors, field workers, and operators to the right information across any device.

What else should I know about the GIS program?

Here is a resource we often use to guide us in creating our custom solutions and gathering information for the GIS we hope to have in place for OFNTSC and Ontario First Nations check it out: Architecting the GIS System