Geospatial information describes the location and names of features beneath, on or above the earth’s surface.

At its simplest this can mean the basic topographical information found on a map. On a more complex level it can include different location-related datasets combined into layers that show information such as land use and population density.

Past and present applications of geospatial information

An early example of basic geospatial information being combined with other layers of information dates back to the mid-nineteenth century. A British physician, John Snow, plotted individual cases of cholera on a map during an outbreak of the disease in London. This enabled him to trace the source of the outbreak—a contaminated well.

Most human activity depends on geospatial information: knowing where things are and how they relate to one another. 

Geospatial information supports a wide range of business, government and community activities like:

  • helping emergency forces locate addresses and other important information so they can quickly respond
  • deciding where to build important services like a hospital or a new school.

Find out about working in the New Zealand geospatial industry

Last Updated: 23 July 2019