What’s going on in the world? Things are improving. Nothing has changed! There is lot of improvement needed. Things have gone from bad to worse!

It was ever so! Much of it is a matter of perspective. However, when we have geographically-referenced data, things can become at least a little bit clearer.


Geographically-referenced data are GeoData. They are also known as Geo-Informatics and Geographic Information. There are many computer-based hardware and software technologies now that allow us to capture data relating to any particular place – geographically-referenced data, GeoData.

GeoData may be gathered by human beings going place to place, or by satellite technology. When GeoData are collected by satellite technology, those GeoData are called ‘Remotely Sensed’ data. The process of such data collection is called RS – Remote sensing. For example, recently ISRO has released satellites to monitor pollution, water conditions on Earth.

The computer-based hardware and software that handle vast amounts of GeoData are collectively called GIS – Geographical Information Systems.

GIS help us to collect, organize, manipulate, and analyze GeoData.

These technologies are powerful tools for us to apply geography concepts to the study of phenomena on Earth. They help us in planning action to change things.

Numbers and places

Numeric information (data in the form of numbers; e.g.: number of people below the poverty line, number of deaths, etc.) can be shown using tables and graphs When the information is geographical information, we can use maps to show the information.

Why use maps? Using maps helps us to make out geographical (or ‘spatial’) patterns. E.g.: how do birth rates compare between ‘developed’ and ‘less-developed’ countries? How do they compare between land-locked countries and countries that have coastlines?

Further, mapping GeoData helps us to ask geographical questions and, hopefully, to answer them. Remember the four geography questions?

  1. Where is it?
  2. Why is it there?
  3. So what?
  4. What if?

The data can be at different scales … e.g.: we can have data of number primary schools in a village, a taluk, a district, a state, a nation, etc. Each of these is a different scale.

Look at three maps of child mortality and answer these questions [Source: https://goo.gl/CCnSD5 Accessed on 21 January 2019].

Three maps of child mortality. (Click on the image to see larger version in a new tab). [Source: https://goo.gl/CCnSD5 Accessed: 21 January 2019]

Open the above image (it’ll open in a new tab), and do these things:

  1. Basic observations
      1. What is ‘child mortality’?
      2. When you compare the three maps, how did child mortality change from the map of 1800 to 1950?
      3. What are some of the reasons for these changes?
      4. How did child mortality change among the countries in the torrid zone, those in the temperate zone, and those in the frigid zone?
      5. Similarly, compare the maps of 1950 and 2015. Answer the questions (b), (c), and (d) for this time period.
  2. The map for 1800 is just one big mass of red. What might be some reasons for this?
  3. The maps for 1950 and 2015 show many different colors. Each color shows a different value. But if you pick any country and look at its data, there is something that those data do not Think about this and find out what is not being revealed. Hint: it has to do with scale.
  4. The UN has appointed you as the Director of Global Reduction of Child Mortality Rates. You have been given a huge, multi-billion dollar budget for your work. Which countries would you target for the most urgent action, less urgent action, and non-urgent action? Why?

You can explore many different kinds of data maps here.

Send your answers to us at geo@tigs.in  Depending on how well you answer, we will publish them in this blog.

A version of this article appeared in the Deccan Herald Student Edition, 23 January 2016

Featured image: Population cartogram of Asia. The northern border of India does not conform to the legal locations under Indian law. [Source: https://goo.gl/JRjZGk Accessed 23 January 2019]


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