GIS stands for Geographic Information System.
Information systems use data to synthesize knowledge and gain insights from the data they use. Data usually tell us about something…the “what”. For example, most students and schools use a learning management system (LMS) that uses data about students, classes, teachers, schedules, class content, tests, assignments, and a host of other data to determine what grades a student has, what classes they have taken, if they have met the requirements for graduation, what their GPA is, as well as more general analyses like how many students graduate, which programs work (or do not work), trends in enrollment, and many other decision-supporting analytics.
GIS refers to information systems which use data that have “spatial” components that tell us “where” the data apply to like latitude and longitude, address, altitude, and other data points to analyze and visualize data in different, and spatially meaningful, ways. A good example is the recent pandemic. It has been very important to know how many people have contracted Covid-19, how old they are, if they have other illnesses, and how many ended up on the hospital, and how many have died from the disease. However, knowing where they live, where they work, where they have come into contact with others, where they have travelled…all spatially relevant data…has helped to track effectiveness of treatments, how the virus has moved around the globe, and where vaccines are having the most positive effects. Usually data tells us the “what”. Spatial data tell us the “where”, with which the “what” takes on an added dimension of usefulness and context.