During this global event some of the more than two million GIS users open their doors to schools, businesses and the public to help spread a better awareness of this important technology.

More often than not, there is more to a map than what meets the eye, and that something is usually a geographic information system (GIS). If you are curious about GIS, you will be able to see it in action during the many events planned for the fourth annual GIS Day, Wednesday, November 20, 2002.

Part of the National Geographic Society's Geography Awareness Week, GIS Day is a global event during which some of the more than two million GIS users open their doors to schools, businesses, and the public to help spread a better awareness of this important technology.

A GIS is a computer-based mapping tool that takes information from a database about a place, such as streets, buildings, water features, and terrain, and turns it into visual layers. Being able to see all of these features on one map gives you a better understanding of a particular location and enables planners and analysts to make informed decisions about their communities.

While most are not aware of it, GIS touches our lives daily. It is used throughout the world to solve problems related to the environment, health care, land use, business efficiency, education and public safety. The power supply directed to homes, the patrol cars and fire trucks that keep neighborhoods safe, and the delivery trucks on the road all function more efficiently because of GIS. This technology can also help businesses place ATMs and restaurants at more convenient locations, allow people to pull maps off the Internet, and help farmers grow more crops with less chemicals.

More than 80 countries held GIS Day events during GIS Day 2001, and there were events in all 50 of the United States. ESRI and Sun Microsystems Inc., hosted the first GISQuest!, a one-of-a-kind, free, interactive Web cast that enabled participants to experience GIS firsthand. Players visited multiple, live GIS-powered Web sites and learned about the substantial contributions that GIS technology makes in their communities. GISQuest! is online at http://www.gisquest.org/.

The National Geographic Society will incorporate GIS Day activities into its Geography Action! 2002 program, which will focus on America's public lands as its theme. The aim of the project is to call attention to the role of public lands through educational endeavors and the adventures of two groups of travelers who will trek through U.S. public lands.

GIS enthusiasts are invited to be a part of GIS Day's worldwide education mission and register to host an event. Participating organizations will receive support in promoting their event to local schools, newspapers, and other organizations. For event registration, support and ideas, or to find a GIS Day 2002 event near you, log on to http://www.gisday.com/. GIS Day is principally sponsored by the National Geographic Society, the Association of American Geographers, the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, the United States Geological Survey, the Library of Congress, Sun Microsystems, and ESRI.