The People in GIS

GIS technology has come to the fore in the response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Organizations around the world have created ArcGIS Dashboards, which have become a critical means for providing access to authoritative information and have been viewed billions of times. The maps in these dashboards, showing the global distribution and the magnitude of the outbreak, make it easy to immediately grasp the scope and seriousness of the pandemic.

The effectiveness of GIS technology was demonstrated not only by organizations that were existing users but by those that had little or no experience with GIS. These GIS newcomers got software and support from Esri, which freely offered help to any organization battling COVID-19.

GIS technology has played an unprecedented role in the response to the pandemic because it is supported by a geospatial infrastructure that spans the globe. Instead of just the GIS of individual cities, states, or nations, it has become a system of systems.

This larger vision for GIS technology combines and organizes data of all kinds in a geographic framework. That data, supplied as web services, is immediately accessible via the Esri Geospatial Cloud and available for visualization, analysis, and modeling.

This is GIS at scale.

The textbook definition of a geographic information system is that it is composed of software, hardware, data, and people. The people in GIS are critical to its success. The technology is powerful, but leadership is necessary for GIS to make a difference in outcomes.

GIS professionals have been playing a critical role in enabling their organizations’ efforts during the pandemic. Their work is answering questions such as, Where and who are the people who are sick? Where and who are the people who are most at risk? Where should testing sites be located? The answers to these and other questions make more informed decisions and policies possible.

As GIS people have stepped up their game in these challenging circumstances, they are making a real difference in COVID-19 response, mitigation, and recovery efforts.

Jack Dangermond, Esri president, applauds these efforts. “I think this is such a testimony to the ability for our community to really come together and respond. Frankly, I am personally overwhelmed by the goodness that our community is providing.”