ArcNews Online

Winter 2006/2007
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GIS and Society

The following is a series of updates on the activities Esri is actively engaged in related to GIS and society. Since its founding, Esri has long been committed to helping conservation groups and education at all levels, knowing that GIS can be the key to many environmental and social solutions.

Society for Conservation GIS

click to enlargeThe Society for Conservation GIS (www involves literally hundreds of volunteers who travel around the world training conservation and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the skills to create and manage GIS systems. They are an amazing force within our society. These hard working, diligent people take GIS tools and methods to the farthest reaches of the planet and teach others how to apply GIS to conservation problems. They bring not only technical skills but also methodological skills on how to observe, analyze, make maps, present information, prepare plans, and become active in GIS conservation efforts. Esri supports this organization with training, software, and technical support.


GISCorps is an organization associated with the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) that provides GIS support during times of emergency. It has contributed greatly by organizing GIS users/volunteers. Esri believes in this organization and has helped by providing financial and technical assistance. GISCorps was presented a Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) award at the 2006 Esri International User Conference.

Conservation Commons

click to enlargeThe World Conservation Union ( in 2004 launched the Conservation Commons ( as a set of principles to support open access to, and the fair use of, data and information related to the conservation of biodiversity with the belief that this will contribute to improving conservation outcomes. Since then, over 70 organizations in government, the private sector, and academia have formally endorsed the Commons principles and have agreed to share some or all of their information for conservation purposes. Inspired by the Conservation Commons vision, in 2006, a group of 14 NGOs worked with Esri to develop the Conservation GeoPortal ( This GIS-enabled portal allows individuals, organizations, and governments to post metadata describing and linking to their data and maps. The portal includes a built-in map viewer to display and mash-up live map services from different organizations.

Esri is helping build the Conservation GeoPortal and fully endorses the vision and principles of the Conservation Commons. We encourage other organizations to join the Commons and help the conservation community develop and share data, tools, and approaches to support conservation and sustainable development worldwide.


click to enlargeGIS and education are a major focus of Esri. Our software is now running in thousands of K–12 schools representing 73 countries and thousands of teachers.

Bringing geography back into mainstream education using GIS as a new medium is important. To combat geographic illiteracy, Esri has joined the National Geographic Society and other leaders from the business, nonprofit, and education communities to create My Wonderful World (, a five-year public-engagement campaign that aims to motivate parents and educators to increase the geographic resources available to students aged 8 to 17 at home and in the classroom.

Esri also supports thousands of colleges and universities around the world with software and a variety of educational materials (books, datasets, curriculum materials, and technical support). The purpose of these activities is to assist the academic world in both advancing geographic science research and building a professional workforce that is capable of understanding and advancing the geospatial field.


This past November 15, Esri, together with the Association of American Geographers, the National Geographic Society, and others, once again celebrated GIS Day. This was an opportunity for our users to share what they are doing and what GIS is really all about, not only with kids but also with colleagues in other professions. Esri has assisted in these efforts in a variety of ways. See "GIS Day Brings New Dimension in Geography to Communities Worldwide."

See also "GIS Is Providing a New Medium for Understanding."

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