Esri participated in the first UN World Data Forum, which took place January, 15–18, 2017, in Cape Town, South Africa. This forum convened to explore innovative ways to measure global progress and inform evidence-based policy decisions on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is a plan of action agreement among heads of state and government. Esri joined data statistics experts from government, national statistical offices, the private sector, academia, civil society, and international organizations to discuss interactive platforms that improve the use of data for sustainable development.
The opening plenary set the stage and the overall tenor of the week’s discussion. Clint Brown, Esri director of product engineering, discussed how geographical information systems (GIS) can provide a framework for organizing sustainable development goals (SDG) data. He emphasized that GIS connects and engages citizens, communities, and organizations so that they can achieve sustainable development.
Esri organized and participated in many sessions throughout the week. During the session “Innovative Approaches for Population and Housing Censuses: Country Experiences,” Linda Peters from Esri shared how people are using GIS to modernize statistical systems.
The managing director of Esri South Africa, Patrick McKivergan, presented “Working-with-big-data-new-data-sources.” GIS plays a key role in unlocking these new data sources and helps bring insight and understanding to this complex data.
Esri’s Charles Brigham and Richard Kaufholz offered two papers, “State of the art in data visualizations and dashboards to support the 2030 Agenda” and “The SDG Metadata API Global Challenge.” While discussing ways to understand data through maps and integrated applications, Brigham stressed the need to build bridges between different systems. A configurable dashboard environment needs to be available to any knowledge worker. To extend the reach of web GIS applications, agencies need to apply modern geographic principles such as service-oriented architectures and standards-based open and interoperable APIs (application programming interface).
In addition, Kaufholz demonstrated how GIS integrates real-time government data. This is a way to inform stakeholders, a concept he shared in his presentation “Sharing Data and Engaging with Local Governments and Communities to Achieve Development Goals.” Kaufholz noted that Esri has thousands of open datasets that application developers can access via their applications. For instance, the Rhino Information System application aggregates media information and data feeds about rhinos. The Urban Observatory collates information about city population data and services that is used to compare and contrast cities around the world.
In the session “A Modernisation of Collaborative Frameworks among Data Communities,” Peters emphasized the need to jointly develop a framework that will take into consideration issues of privacy, security, and legality. She pointed to the GeoHub frameworks for the City of Los Angeles, the Urban Observatory, and the Living Atlas as examples of Esri’s partnering with different organizations and stakeholders. Peters emphasized that GIS plays a key role in helping link many datasets together. She also described the value of organizations engaging with their communities and stakeholders.
In the presentation “Building Citizen Generated Data Applications in the Cloud, Crowdsourcing and Sharing Stories”, Clifford Okembo, Esri East Africa, demonstrated the recently developed Kenya Open Data portal. The portal gives the public access to Kenya’s government data, in a variety of formats, for agriculture, education, health, energy, and other sectors. Okembo also explained how Esri tools help users visualize and monitor SDG indicators.
The overall message Esri communicated at the UN World Data Forum was that GIS provides the framework and processes for enabling a smarter world and understanding the SDGs through data integration and management, visualization, and mapping.