A Transformational Esri International User Conference

Aug 2013 | No Comment

Musician Talks Technology, the Urban Observatory Opens, and ArcGIS Online Gets Analytical

It’s not every day that a musician inspires a mapmaker.

But that’s what happened at the 2013 Esri International User Conference (Esri UC) in San Diego, California. It’s where, the recording artist and founder of the Black Eyed Peas, helped Katherine O’Brien, GIS coordinator for facilities at the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill, make the decision to start mentoring students in how to use geospatial technology.

“I need to go back and work with kids,”said O’Brien, who credited for inspiring her to get involved., born William James Adams, started the Foundation in part to support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in the classroom. He spoke for 30 minutes with Esri president Jack Dangermond about his passion for helping young people get a strong STEM education, including learning to use GIS. Prior to their conversation, four 11thgraders from Roosevelt High School in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, demonstrated how they used GIS to analyze data using Esri’s mapping software., who grew up in Boyle Heights, arranged for them to use ArcGIS for their school projects.

It’s important to be tech savvy and computer literate today, said “Most people don’t read or write code, but we all use technology to communicate,” he said. See the rest of the conversation at

Transforming India

Esri UC keynote speaker Sam Pitroda, an adviser to India’s prime minister on public information, infrastructure, and innovations, outlined India’s plan to build a national GIS as part of a public information infrastructure. He said 400 million people live below the poverty line in the country of 1.3 billion and that democratizing information using technology help lift them out of poverty.

Sam Pitroda believes GIS will be critical to turning India into an information-rich society.

The creation of a nationwide GIS platform has begun, with plans to use the technology to tag every physical asset in the country and unique identifications (UIDs) for all residents. GIS would help streamline everything from the justice system to the food distribution system and improve housing and education, Pitroda said. “Our goal is really to empower a billion people with knowledge information, and this is where GIS, we believe, will play an important role,” he said.

Transforming Urban Areas

The new Urban Observatory opened at the Esri UC. It uses Esri technology to compare demographic and other information about major cities at the same scale. It operates both as a live exhibit and at Participating cities include New York, New York; Tokyo, Japan; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Mumbai, India; Paris, France; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A Map Gallery visitor explores the Urban Observatory.

Transforming GIS

“We need to create a better future with GIS.” That’s what Dangermond underscored in his talk about web GIS, which he thinks will be transformational going forward as geospatial technology increasingly becomes easier to use; more accessible; and can integrate big data, 3D data, and much more. “Look what GPS did as a technology. It totally transformed us as human beings so we are never lost,’’

he said. “Think for a moment if we could make GIS exactly that pervasive so our organizations would not be lost, our communities would not be lost, and our society would not be lost.” To illustrate how fast web GIS is maturing, Esri’s Lauren Bennett demonstrated several new spatial analysis tools in ArcGIS Online. “We are able to answer common spatial questions using simple tools” Bennett said.

To see more videos from the conference, visit

– Carla Wheeler, Esri Writer


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