GIS Day Carries On, and Virtual Events Are a Hit

In spite of all the changes the world has experienced over the past year, one thing has remained steady: GIS is making a difference in so many of the things we do, from managing resources during the COVID-19 pandemic and building smarter, more sustainable cities to conserving wildlife habitats and responding to natural disasters. Some might even argue that GIS is more important now than ever, given how COVID-19 has raised awareness around the globe of how important geospatial technology is for problem solving and decision-making.

GIS Day was officially commemorated on November 18, 2020. Celebrations were not only extra cautious, they were also extra special. Most events were held online, allowing people from all over the world to attend presentations, workshops, interactive meetups, and other virtual functions hosted by government agencies, libraries, schools, universities, nonprofit organizations, and private companies. Events included the following:

Map of the world with approximate locations of all GIS Day registered attendees
GIS enthusiasts registered more than 1,200 events on the GIS Day website.

The hosts of each of the events listed above used ArcGIS Hub to organize and present their GIS Day content, which was a new and innovative aspect of the 2020 celebrations. This gave them one, comprehensive online space in which to engage and collaborate with their communities and serve their unique audiences.

GIS enthusiasts registered more than 1,200 additional events at, officially putting their functions on the GIS Day map. Most of these were open to the public.

Geospatial Libya Consulting in Misratah, Libya, for example, held a discussion on spatial data infrastructure. The School of Geography at the University of Costa Rica demonstrated what faculty and students are doing with GIS in their instruction and research. Government agency Land Information New Zealand sponsored a virtual, three-day field trip that showed students how to use maps to safely hike the outdoors. The Federation of Community Forestry led attendees through a demonstration and discussion of its critical forest work. And the Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre in Tanzania taught other GIS Day participants about tropical biodiversity through its GIS Day event.

Screenshot of ArcGIS Hub
Several organizations used ArcGIS Hub to organize their GIS Day events.

“You just can’t stop the enthusiasm and quest to share GIS knowledge, even during a pandemic,” said Maria Jordan, Esri’s product marketer for ArcGIS Hub. “Whether celebrating as part of a city, county, university, or private business, GIS Day hosts stepped their creativity up a notch this year to plan virtual events, record YouTube videos, and broadcast radio show programs to reach their audiences.”

In addition to these events hosted around the world, the GIS Day website served up some new, on-demand content to help everyone celebrate the technology from the comfort of their own home. Videos, articles, and podcasts posted on the website spotlighted GIS influencers who are using the technology to do important work such as building inclusive workforces, designing landscapes with climate change in mind, and responding to devastating wildfires. Esri also released a new GIS Day mobile app, available for download from the Google Play and Apple App Store, that was designed to help GIS professionals share the technology with colleagues, students, and community members through games and map exploration activities. The idea was to let people experience GIS using their own personal devices.

Screenshot of the GIS Day event homepage
The GIS Day website served up videos, articles, and podcasts that spotlighted GIS heroes and influencers.

Each host that registered an event on the GIS Day website received five ArcGIS for Personal Use licenses. The hosts had full discretion over how to distribute the licenses. Some held contests and lotteries, others gave them out at networking activities, and still others doled them out as gifts to presenters or as donations to nonprofits. The point was to help hosts further the use of GIS within their communities beyond GIS Day.

Around the world, people use GIS Day as a way to help others discover GIS, share their accomplishments, and inspire their peers with the infinite ways that geospatial technology can be used. The next GIS Day will be November 17, 2021, so don’t forget to join in!