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GIS Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about geographic information systems.  

What is a GIS?

A geographic information system is an integrated computer-based system designed to capture, store, edit, analyze, retrieve and display data and information as maps and reports. See the following sources for more information -- they are arranged in order of increasing length and complexity.

What GIS data and maps are available for Minnesota?

The Minnesota Geographic Data Clearinghouse is a first source for information about Minnesota's GIS data and map resources.

GIS Employment Opportunities

Information on GIS employment opportunities is available at these websites:  GIS/LIS Consortium, Geojobs and GIS Jobs Clearinghouse.

GIS Education Resources

The Minnesota GIS/LIS Consortium has an Educational Links page that provides information useful for K-12 teachers in their classroom and college programs for those looking for formal training.


Many agencies and organizations are involved in developing GIS standards for internal and external use. Official GIS standards and guidelines for the state of Minnesota can be found at the Minnesota Office of Enterprise Technology. The Minnesota Governor's Council Standards Committee is involved with GIS data standards development and coordination in Minnesota. The Federal Geographic Data Committee is the principal contact for national GIS standards development.

GIS Grants and Funding

The following sites are good starting places to look for GIS grant opportunities:

  • ESRI Grant Assistance Program: Provides links to GIS grants sponsored by the Environmental Systems Research Institute and also to non-ESRI GIS grants from federal, state and local governments, foundations and various industries.
  • National Spatial Data Infrastructure Cooperative Agreement Program (CAP) Grants: An annual program from the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) to assist the geospatial data community through funding and other resources in implementing the components of the NSDI.
  •  This website managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is THE single access point for over 1,000 grant programs offered by all Federal grant making agencies. Organizations can electronically find and apply for more than $400 billion in Federal grants, some of which are related to GIS.

In addition to government agencies, many private philanthropic organizations and foundations are interested in information technology and improving the functioning of government. The site below provides a starting point for locating government agencies and private organizations that are interested in these areas but which may not have specific funding programs related to GIS.

  • for Nonprofits: A network of links to Federal government information and services, including links to the grants programs of Federal agencies, state and local funding directories, and a guide on writing successful grant proposals.

Council and Consortium

The Minnesota Governor's Council on Geographic Information is a government body focused on policy issues. The Minnesota GIS/LIS Consortium is a non-profit organization with an educational mission. Details of their complementary partnership are covered in a brochure available online.

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