ESRI Federal User Conference Recap: Plenary Session

This morning I attended the Plenary Session of the ESRI Federal User Conference. The Plenary Session had a great presentation by ESRI President Jack Dangermond and Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes.

Jack’s presentation focused on providing an overview of ESRI and presented a vision of future implications for ESRI and GIS technology. Jack provided a lot of great information during the presentation. What was amazing was the impact that GIS has made across government. Jack mentioned how mapping data has impacted government and how GIS has been used in disaster management, health care, defense, land management, transportation and planning. I am sure there are numerous other ways GIS has been used as well.

The hope of GIS technology is to take complex data and information and make it manageable to help inform decision makers. One example that was used during the conference was the desire to find the best spots to place a wind turbine off the coast of Massachusetts. Nearly instantly during the product demonstration, ESRI software was able to use data to find the most efficient spots to place the wind turbines and build a map. The map then could easily be shared with directors to help make an informed decision. This is a great example of how GIS takes complicated data and develops a map to help inform decision makers.

It’s fascinating to think about how simple the product looks, but knowing the complexity in the data and development of the software. Creating something so intuitive and easy to use comes with dozens of challenges. Jack spent some time highlighting what makes a great geo-information product:

  1. Requires good data
  2. Disseminates knowledge
  3. Supports decision-making
  4. Illustrates Change
  5. Shows States
  6. Shows the Future
  7. Timely

The goal is that a map tells a story – providing the right information, right data and best information for decision makers and key stakeholders. There is a lot that goes into this process, and in the end, an incredibly intuitive and useful product is created.

David Hayes also gave a remarkable presentation about how GIS is being used at the Department of the Interior. David identified four areas in which GIS is being used:

  1. Landscape Level Planning
  2. Communications with Citizens
  3. Inform Decision Makers
  4. Crisis Management

David mentioned that one of the challenges with GIS is that the data provides the right information to inform the right decision. The hope is that by using GIS technology, government agencies can break down silos, produce better products and meet constituent needs.

With the complexity of challenges that government faces, GIS is one potential solution to help push government forward. The potential for GIS is vast, and what is amazing to me, is how much the GIS can be customized and tailored to fit specific needs. This was a great event to attend this morning – and lots of interesting developments for government and GIS technology.

I got a lot of great materials about GIS, so look for some blogs with some case studies soon.

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