Sunday Maptinee: Data for Decisions

Caitlin Dempsey


In honor of Roger Tomlinson (1933-2014), who recently died, this edition of Sunday Maptinee features Data for Decisions, a video created in 1967 to highlight the emerging technology of geographic information systems (GIS).  Hosted by Roger Tomlinson, Data for Decisions is a film from the National Film Board of Canada created to illustrate the development of the Canada Geographic Information System (CGIS).

The video was commissioned by Tomlinson in order to demonstrate to government officials, the benefits of the CGIS as part of the Department of Forestry and Rural Development.  In the opening segment Tomlinson underscores that, “to makes decisions we need facts”.

Prior to the development of the CGIS, the Canadian Land Inventory, which manages over 2.5 million square kilometers of land and water, produced its geographic information via a laborious and manual method in order to get those facts.  In highlighting the time intensive and expensive method of spatial analysis prior to the computerization of its geographic data, Tomlinson states in the video, “To compare only six basic factors for all of Canada would take 556 people, eight hours a day, for three years.  It would cost $8,000,000 [in 1967 Canadian dollars].”  Tomlinson’s system created an automated way of overlaying spatial data from disparate geographic datasets in order to answer such questions as how much good farming land within a given area is still undeveloped.

Today, data from the Canadian Land Inventory System can be downloaded in shapefile format from the CLI download page as well as from the GeoGratis site.

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The video can be viewed on YouTube in three parts.  The total video is roughly 22 minutes in length.Data for Decisions – part 1

Watch the first section of “Data for Decisions”:

YouTube video


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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.