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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Notes from the Esri Federal GIS Conference 2012

March 1st, 2012 by Susan Smith

This past week, 3500 people attended the Esri Federal GIS Conference held in Washington, D.C.  Attendees came from virtually every federal agency, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), GIS companies and other agencies that support federal and state agencies.

Esri president Jack Dangermond kicked off the plenary with a reminder that the world is rapidly changing and we are confronted with new issues such as loss of biodiversity. GIS helps to build intelligence about these issues.

“If we take raw data we can turn it into information by mapping it, that’s why it’s so exciting to look at maps,” said Dangermond. “And now with the dawning of the cloud web world pattern for GIS we’re seeing how we can share this knowledge and create better understanding. GIS drives understanding.”

Some user work was showcased such as the first global dataset of biomass – in Woods Hole, and the relationship between hydrology and biofuels.

Presenters focused on topics such as integration, collaboration and breaking down government silos.

David Shell, founder the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), was presented with the Making a Difference Award. “The reason I started OGC was that I felt it was more important to make a difference than to just make a product,” said Shell. “Right from the beginning when Jack and I first met it was clear to me that we would be working together for decades. ESRI was instrumental in creating a very large GIS market, and OGC was more concerned with communication and integration of different kinds of information that was complementary to that market. As the markets and technologies have evolved, we now have models for communicating between different communities and markets. And to create complex models that deal with multiple disciplines and multiple technology techniques. OGC has become a lab for the integration of diverse complex models, and to be able to integrate many of these technologies and make better sense of the world.”

Shell is retiring from the board of OGC and moving on to Academia to try to deal with integration of information in that context and encourage interdisciplinary studies as well as get the academy to understand it’s one world and not isolated domains.

U.S. Department of the Interior deputy secretary David J. Hayes spoke on his vision for GIS in the Interior and beyond.

“Some of the ways we see opportunities in geospatial in the Department of the Interior and across government on our government side of the ledger, geospatial provides us with a much needed mechanism to break down government silos,” said Shell. The Department of the Interior is the nation’s primary steward of our water, land and wildlife resources. We manage over ¼ of the landmass of the U.S., with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service, it’s up to 1/3 of landmass.  We have substantial responsibilities in offshore, managing the permitting of activities of 1.7 billion acres along with NOAA’s coordinate obligations. We do it in silos, with acreage governed by different services and departments.”

How to get out of those silos? Shell said geospatial technology is a powerful tool for getting out of those silos on the government side of the ledger. On other side of ledger they provide services to Americans and geospatial can change the way they interact with the people.

Ways to use geospatial technology –

  1. Using geospatial technology to bring information from all the silos together.
  2. Geospatial information can be used for citizens, to educate them to the great outdoors and show access.
  3. Geospatial planning for decision makers to use before deciding what planning exercise to implement, making information digestible.

The federal government has two significant developments –

  1. Version one of an Interagency Geospatial Platform, based on the USGS National Map. This platform provides a government-wide platform for all your agencies to work off as a common data set.
  2. Tools tailored to decision maker needs. The Department of the Interior entered into a partnership with the U.S. Institute of Environmental Conflict Resolution, Esri, Trust for Public Lands, Conservation Biology Institute and NatureServe to review the many available datasets, analytical tools, stakeholder engagement opportunities, to tailor these databases to deliver the right information for the right problems.

Jack Dangermond spoke on Geoinformation products  which is another name for maps, focusing on maps that tells stories.  “Good information products require good design and understanding the issue,” said Dangermond.

He gave the example of the Fukushima map that was not communicated for four months after the nuclear disaster, and this cost the prime minister his job. It was a good information product that should have been disseminated quickly.

The increasing ability to measure using crowdsourcing tools and sensor tools, brings up other issues of how we make that available which brings up issues of ownership and privacy. Computing is growing dramatically with cloud computing and SaaS, physically and bigger bandwidths are getting connected and layered on top of that is social networking. GIS is easier, more embeddable and interoperable with other tools, there is also 3D, multidimensional and integrating real time information. According to Dangermond, this is the beginning of a new pattern that will lead to a collaborative framework, a common infrastructure that can connect different agencies and break down the silos.

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Category: Esri

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