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Please help me understand a coordinate system and how a coordinate system is relevant to a region of interest such as South Africa. I came across this term a couple of times and overlooked it because I don't really know what it refers to.

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A good starting place for GIS terminology is the GIS Dictionary hosted by Esri.

Coordinate System

A reference framework consisting of a set of points, lines, and/or surfaces, and a set of rules, used to define the positions of points in space in either two or three dimensions. The Cartesian coordinate system and the geographic coordinate system used on the earth's surface are common examples of coordinate systems.

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    For new users (generally already overwhelmed by new concepts) I usually 'dumb it down' to "A coordinate system is instructions that programs understand about placing the coordinates in what units and from what starting point. After all the world is round so you have to start somewhere.". Later on, after they've got familiar with the basics, I go into which ones to use and which ones 'play nice' with each other. – Michael Stimson Jun 18 '15 at 22:43

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