Data for Decision, 1967 [short version]

This short film was produced by the National Film Board of Canada in 1967 and describes the development of the Canada Geographic Information System (CGIS). Dr. Roger Tomlinson, then director of CGIS, commissioned the film as a way to communicate information about the project to the government, who was funding CGIS development.

Jan 1st, 1967

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00:31We have spent millions of dollars to explore the surface of the moon.

00:37Minerals, what's the depth and extent of ore bodies?

00:42How much water is there?

00:45What’s the topography?

00:47Where are the best transportation routes?

00:50How much will they cost per mile?

00:52Where are the best landing sites?

00:57We have spent millions of dollars to explore the surface of the moon.

01:02But, what do we really know about the earth, and its resources?

01:08Where are those resources?

01:09How great are they?

01:13We are in a race against time.

01:16One billion people are hungry.

01:19All their time is used to find food.

01:22They are losing the race.

01:24The world is losing their potential contribution.

01:29How can productivity be increased?

01:33What resources can be developed?

01:36How fast, and at what cost?

01:40How should the benefits be distributed?

01:45We need information.

01:47Data on resources have been piling up for years, even in the newest countries.

01:52The problem is, how to store it, measure it, and analyze it.

01:58Just to look at it, using conventional methods, would take years and years.

02:16To make decisions, we need facts; but we have facts.

02:21We have all seen soil maps and census figures.

02:24So what’s the problem?

02:27The problem is not making the surveys, it is trying to read and summarize the results of the surveys.

02:34The amount of work involved in handling this data is enormous.

02:38Even the simplest operations take hundreds of people.

02:46Raw data and statistics have to be cataloged, stored, summarized, before the data can be used to make decisions.

02:57The process is painfully slow.

03:01It's bad enough when you’re handling census data.

03:04It's even worse when you have to handle maps.

03:07And, so much of our land information comes only in maps.

03:15Suppose an administrator wants to find out how much good farming land in his province is still undeveloped, and where.

03:23He has to compare the maps showing good farming areas with the ones showing present land use.

03:29But they are not of the same scale.

03:33First, one map must be remade as a transparent overlay at the exact scale of the other map.

03:46Checked. Retouched. Positioned.

04:06To measure the area where both factors overlap, you will probably use a dot grid, a method that hasn’t changed since the days of ancient Egypt.

04:15What if he wants to consider other factors, such as the incomes of the people?

04:20Crop yields in a certain soil, forestry, wildlife, recreation, climate, census data...

04:36To compare two factors over 100 square miles will take one man a whole working day.

04:42To compare only six basic factors for all of Canada would take 556 people, eight hours a day, for three years.

04:51It would cost $8,000,000.

04:54But we don’t have the staff; we don’t have the time.

04:58More resource data comes in every year, every month, every day.

05:02Crop and forest assessment, soil surveys, forestry surveys, timber pest counts, wildlife surveys, sampling, analysis, and many others.

05:26Where have surveys been made?

05:28Where do new surveys need to be made?

05:31To make our decisions wisely, we will need every bit of this information, and even more.

05:37Human beings alone can’t handle this vast amount of information.

05:42But if we harness the computer, and use it to extend our abilities, then we can.

05:49At the moment, the government is rather like a farmer who has just inherited his farm.

05:54He doesn’t really know how big the farm is, perhaps he doesn’t know much about the soil.

05:59He hasn't got too much idea about the climate, and he's not really sure whether there's usable water.

06:06And yet, he has to make decisions that will let him plant the right seed, and grow enough food to support his family.

06:15And if you think that would be a problem on an ordinary-sized farm, think what it would be like with a million square miles.

06:24The Canada Land Inventory is trying to tackle this problem in two ways.

06:28Firstly, it's trying to gather together the basic information that we need to know about the country.

06:35Secondly, it's trying to find out some way of handling this information.

06:41We like to think that we've got a system that can accept the information, can store it, can analyze it, and present the results in a usable form.

06:52A system that can do this, not in years, but in hours.

Copyright 2016 Esri
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Thanks Esri to share this wonderful video about the birth of the world's first Geographic Information System - GIS. I had the honor to meet Dr. Roger in Amman - Jordan in the 2006.


Mar 12th, 2014. 11:50:57 PM

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