What is geospatial information?

Geospatial information, also known as location information, is information describing 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

Geospatial information and our economy

Geospatial information is widely used in New Zealand and already contributes over $1.2 billion a year to the economy. It also forms a part of New Zealand’s knowledge infrastructure and enables innovation and better decision-making. Removing key barriers to connecting this information could add a further $500 million a year in productivity benefits and generate an extra $100 million in government revenue.

Today, the technologies and systems that enable geospatial information to be used are evolving rapidly. The range of applications for this kind of information is ever-expanding.

The terms "geospatial information", "spatial information" and "location information" are often used interchangeably.

Better connecting New Zealand's location-based information

Watch a short video outlining what geospatial information is. The video explains what a spatial data infrastructure is, and the benefits of better connecting New Zealand's geospatial information.

Last Updated: 25 June 2015