A Gentle Introduction to GIS


GIS is becoming an increasingly important tool in environmental management,
retail, military, police, tourism and many other spheres of our daily lives. If you
use a computer or a cell phone, you have probably already used a GIS in some
form without even realising it. Maybe it was a map on a web site, Google
Earth, an information booth or your cell phone telling you where you are.
Proprietary GIS software (software that cannot be freely shared or modified) is
available that will let you do everything we describe in these worksheets and a
lot more. However this software is usually very expensive or otherwise limits
your freedom to copy, share and modify the software. GIS vendors sometimes
make an exception for educational activities, providing cheaper or free copies
of their software. They do this knowing that if teachers and learners get to
know their software, they will be reluctant to learn other packages. When
learners leave school they will go into the workplace and buy the commercial
software, never knowing that there are free alternatives that they could be
With Quantum GIS, we offer an alternative - software that is free of cost and
free in a social sense. You can make as many copies as you like. When learners
leave school one day they can use this software to build their skills, solve
problems at work and make the world a better place. 
When you buy commercial software, you limit your options for the future. By
learning, using and sharing Free and Open Source Software, you are building
your own skills, freeing money to be spent on important things like food and
shelter and boosting our own economy. 
By sponsoring the creation of this resource, the DLA has created a foundation
to which young minds can be exposed. Exciting possibilities lie ahead when
principles of free sharing of knowledge and data are embraced. For this we
give our heartfelt thanks to the DLA!