2020 Esri Federal GIS Conference Highlights

The 2020 Esri Federal GIS Conference focused on how GIS is evolving to become a smart, connected global geospatial infrastructure—one that allows the planet to react, respond, and grow intelligently. Over two days at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, thousands of attendees came together to discover the ways GIS can enable federal users to be an integral part of this new “intelligent nervous system” for the world.


GIS integrates geographic data into the decision-making process, turning it into a valuable tool for understanding the world and creating a sustainable future. Data sharing is key to effective global and national collaboration, and federal organizations are in a unique position to facilitate this transformation at scale.


Keynotes Discuss Location Intelligence for Conservation and Defense


Dr. Healy Hamilton, Chief Scientist at NatureServe, a nonprofit provider of western hemisphere biodiversity information and tools, shared the Map of Biodiversity Importance in her Keynote Address. The Map of Biodiversity Importance uses big data, GIS, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence to help scientists predict and share fine resolution maps of the most likely places where species will exist and where they most need protecting based on their location. Dr. Hamilton discussed how federal agencies can use this geospatial analysis of suitable habitat for over 2200 species at risk in the continental US—identifying opportunities for sustaining biodiversity in the years to come.


Closing out the Keynote Session, Vice Admiral Robert D. Sharp, Director, NGA participated in a conversation on stage with Jack Dangermond to discuss the four priorities of NGA—people, partnerships, mission today and mission tomorrow—and how GIS plays a significant role in achieving the agency’s mission. After VADM Sharp’s tour of duty in Operation Desert Storm, he realized that everything the  military was engaged in was related to time and space. Having taken charge of the NGA, VADM Sharp seeks to ensure that the US remains globally competitive now that geospatial technology is being used on the world stage as a military intelligence tool.


Users Make Predictive Decisions with GIS and AI


By the year 2050, farmers will be expected to feed a world population of up to 10 billion people. To meet this challenge, the US Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service developed the Agricultural Collaborative Research Outcomes System (AgCROS) as the next generation collaborative platform to share data across the agricultural community. AgCROS is designed to engage government employees, scientists, farmers, and citizens. Using an ArcGIS Hub, and information like satellite data and sensor networks, this platform uses machine learning to show farmers the most effective growth methods based on their crops and location. This allows them to do more with fewer resources, as well as maximize their efficiency.


In the mid-20th century, urban areas across the country experienced extreme pollution events that contributed to the formation of the US Environmental Protection Agency. Though the nation has substantially improved air quality over the last five decades, evolving sources of pollution as well as impacts from wildfires continue to pose a threat to public health and the environment. Today, members of the Agency’s Air Quality Analysis team are using GIS to manage ambient air data, analyze pollution movement patterns and model air quality, and produce readily accessible information for policymakers and the public to help make decisions about their daily activity through This interactive new website uses predictive models to show citizens if their air is polluted, even if they don’t have monitors in their community.


As the countdown to the 2020 Census continues, the US Census Bureau is preparing for the largest peacetime mobilization of GIS-powered enumerators. However, many people live in locations where they are inaccessible via traditional postal services, or who speak another language. In order to know how to reach these people, and what kind of materials to send them, the US Census is using GIS and satellite imagery to determine specifically which people in what parts of the country require specialized services, such as a personal home visit or bilingual forms.

YMCA (the Y) is using geospatial technology to positively engage associations through research-based insights. By understanding local community needs, the Y can nimbly respond to the people they serve. With 20 million individuals served, the Y uses ArcGIS to analyze local community data such as drivetimes, populations in age range, and median income. This enables the Y to engage the youth with different tactics in areas where there is a low connection with communities and organization. It is also allowing them to see where their efforts are having the most impact.

New Products and Capabilities


The FedGIS Conference also provided a great insider’s look at what’s new from Esri:


For more on the 2020 Esri Federal GIS Conference, check out videos from the Plenary Session online.



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