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Solving Challenges from Local to Global

In 2017, an exceptional set of environmental conditions led to a catastrophic hurricane season. Storm after storm surged across the Atlantic and wreaked havoc on the infrastructure and economy of the nations in its path. Natural disasters of this magnitude have become stronger due in part to the changing climate, and also costlier because our economies are larger and more interconnected. Going forward, the harm inflicted by disruptive natural, economic, or financial events on communities is likely to be more damaging and impact more lives.

The effects of such events reverberate around the world requiring a large-scale response. All levels of government, from local to global, must have timely and seamless access to authoritative data, as well as the means to communicate that information with citizens. GIS is the framework for collecting, managing, and disseminating the knowledge that decision-makers need. Users gather and analyze location-based data on all society's moving parts, from who lives where to infrastructure, land use, and weather. Combining data themes in a GIS gives them a full picture of what is happening now, what has changed over time, and the likelihood of future events so that citizens can prepare today for what tomorrow will bring.

When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in August, GIS technology was used from beginning to end in the prediction, monitoring, and response efforts. Esri's Disaster Response Program provided software and assistance around the clock to the people who needed it most. Data that streamed from satellite images, flood sensors, drones, and social media was consumed and aggregated by GIS to produce location-based disaster intelligence. Esri published the timely maps in a web story map called Harvey: Current Conditions. First responders and disaster managers used the web app as a situational awareness tool for accessing and analyzing real-time information. GIS maps pinpointed areas with high concentrations of elderly or disabled people and highlighted neighborhoods with non-English speakers, so that responders could prioritize relief efforts for the most vulnerable populations. Maps also shared information about flooded or damaged roads as well as where neighborhoods were without power.

Science, technology, and human activity are constant sources of new information. Geospatial technologies allow government agencies to collect that data and use it to make decisions and plan with unprecedented insight. All tiers of government can now maintain situational awareness, share information, and collaborate to solve common challenges. In a world where everything that changes can be measured, we can respond optimally to real-time situations with a complete understanding of where they are happening, why, and what the future is likely to look like.

The impact of GIS on all levels of government has been massive and users design new applications every day. This edition of Mapping the Nation contains a small selection of the enormous body of work that agencies have produced by using GIS to make the maps that run our world. Whether in the realms of urban planning, climate science, security, health, or natural resources management, Esri customers apply the science of where to further understanding and drive progress across the globe.


The world is undergoing a massive digital transformation. We are awash with data that empowers us to quantify and measure our changing planet like never before. Governments worldwide have two challenges:  accessing and managing that data, and turning it into valuable information that can be used to gain insight and make predictions for the future. The biggest challenge for leaders is not only to visualize data, but transform it into a language that facilitates deeper analysis and understanding.

Geographic information system (GIS) technology is the link between the scientific analysis of location-based data and the qualitative understanding that comes from interpreting and sharing that intelligence with both citizens and decision-makers. Mapping the Nation: Solving Challenges from Local to Global, our annual national map book, spotlights customers who are translating data into predictions for the future of both natural and man-made environments, and equipping people with the tools and knowledge they need to make data-driven decisions. 

This book, more than any of its predecessors, showcases how our users around the world are using GIS to proactively address local, regional, and global issues. I hope the groundbreaking work featured here inspires you with new ideas on how your organization can use GIS to analyze, understand, and communicate vital information to answer some of the most pressing questions facing our world.

Warm regards,

Jack Dangermond