Over the past decade, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) have evolved
from a highly specialized niche to a technology that affects nearly every aspect
of our lives, from finding driving directions to managing natural disasters.
While just a few years ago the use of GIS was restricted to a group of
researchers, planners and government workers, now almost everybody can create
customized maps or overlay GIS data. On the other hand, many complex
problems related to urban and regional planning, environmental protection,
or business management, require sophisticated tools and special expertise.
Therefore the current GIS technology spans a wide range of applications from
viewing maps and images on the web to spatial analysis, modeling and simulations.
GIS is often described as integration of data, hardware, and software designed
for management, processing, analysis and visualization of georeferenced
data. The software component has a major impact on the capabilities to effectively
solve a wide range of problems using geospatial data. To ensure the
continuous innovation and improvement of the GIS software, existence of diverse
approaches to GIS software development is crucial. Besides the widely
used proprietary systems, an Open Source GIS plays an important role in
adaptation of GIS technology by stimulating new experimental approaches
and by providing access to GIS for the users who cannot or do not want to
use proprietary products.