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Fall 2006
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Keynote Speaker Cites Decision-Making Capabilities

Senator Kerrey Sees New Opportunities for GIS

Bob KerreyBob Kerrey, former Nebraska senator and president of New York City's The New School, delivered the 26th Annual Esri International User Conference keynote address. "You are making it possible for us to shape our world in ways that more closely resemble our highest aspirations," he told the audience. Kerrey became interested in geography while he was serving in the U.S. Navy. He said his geographic pursuits continued as he served on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence where he discovered GIS and never lost his "enthusiasm for the capacity of geography to enable human beings to make better choices." (See Bob Kerrey's complete keynote address.)

Kerrey spoke about how his interest in GIS influenced his decision to establish the Parsons Institute for Information Mapping (PIIM) at The New School. In 2001, when Kerrey left the U.S. Senate to become president of The New School, he set out to find new ways of bringing the school's substantial intellectual resources to influence real-world issues in a more immediate way. His experiences made him aware of the need for new approaches to how decision makers view and use information. PIIM was created in response to this need.

Tools for Directing the Flow and Purpose of Data

Currently, PIIM is applying methodologies to the organization of data and its presentation to make it immediately comprehensible, in innovative visual formats, at multiple levels and for varying audiences. PIIM strives to bring clarity to the issues that most concern us and is building tools that bring intelligence and capability to the widest audience.

PIIM's Public Opinion Tool enables users to view outcomes of actual elections, including every U.S. presidential election ever held, as well as hypothetical elections based on relevant issues of the time. This tool is accessible at www.publicopiniontool.org. PIIM has also developed a Health Care tool for assistance in improving capital spending for quality care of U.S. citizens in areas of long-term health care and Medicaid/Medicare programs and a Base Realignment and Closure tool to show the full impact of base closures on a state and national scale.

Facing Challenges with GIS

In his address, Kerrey stated that he regarded the work of GIS professionals "to be vital to the success and survival of mankind both here and abroad." Kerrey told the audience that their work was enormously important. "You are leading a movement that is transforming for the good the way we human beings are able to make decisions. Our nerve may fail us because we are afraid of the consequences of choosing. But thanks to you, it is becoming harder and harder to use the excuse 'Sorry, I didn't know,' after selecting the easiest, but worst, option."

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