GIS Implementation: A Cautionary Tale

I have never doubted the potential of GIS as a problem solving tool, as I have explored GIScience as a science this semester the horizons of possibility within the discipline have only widened for me. Though I laud it as technology with much to contribute to society, science and business arenas – the silver lining crowns a dark grey cloud.

Using interpretive research methods to better understand the process of GIS implementation, Sahay and Robey draw from two North American case studies to compare and contrast the success and unfulfilled potential of GIS in the real world. The theoretical foundation laid out by the authors pointed to understanding a phenomenon, in our case GIS implementation, within a specific social context. Collecting data from extensive interviews of GIS users two prevailing inferences were drawn from the cases studied: the first that the organization structure of the receiving body has a grand influence on the effectiveness of GIS technology deployment, and the second that the capability of the institution adopting GIS to transition into the world of GIS is crucial, as one example illustrated, a lack of prior experience with spatial data analysis can prove to be disastrous.

It’s important to note that these two varied examples demonstrate that the needs for effective GIS implementations do not lie in technology or software in and of itself, rather in the people and management responsible for introducing this tool, where necessary. The authors through their research, effectively revealed that the unfulfilled potential of GIS implementation speaks more about the social context and mode of implementation than about the suitability of the tool itself. With the failed implementation, it was evident that the GIS implementation was more helpful in revealing the managerial flaws of the agency than actually providing the perceived intending service by adopting GIS.

Through this reading I have learned that while the introduction of new technologies comes with its consequences, putting human being in charge of things does too.


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