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Geography-Creating Communities

The 21st ESRI International User Conference, the largest ever gath ering of about 11000 GIS professionals work ing in various disciplines all over the world, took place during 9-13 July at San Diego, USA. The conference began with warm welcome by the Founder and President of Environment Systems Research Institute Inc., Dr. Jack Dangermond, who in his own style requested all attendees to introduce each other and strengthen GIS community. With his usual infectious zeal, ESRI President Dr. Jack Dangermond, spoke to a packed crowd of user conference attendees and made a mention of some of the major projects in the field of GIS undertaken in past few years. “You have come from more than 110 different countries and while we are working in a variety of disciplines, including conservation, criminal analysis, global warming, defense, population analysis, and various aspects of globalization, we share a common belief in the capabilities of GIS to assist us in achieving our various goals. This is in fact a definition of community”, said Jack.

Theme
Theme of this year’s conference was “Geography—Creating Communities”. Each of us belong to many communities. These include our places of residence and employment, the organizations to which we may belong, and the activities in which we participate. They are co-existing, co-evolving, co-dependant but not always cooperating. Communities may be defined as the sharing of common experiences, common goals, and working towards a common objective. “Our sense of community is evolving,” continued Dangermond. “For example, the Internet is allowing us a greater sense of global community.” The conference theme looked at GIS as a technology for creating communities among and within organisations. How these communities evolve, the technologies they implement, and the institutional mechanism that supports were focus of discussion. Jack pointed out that what is required is a kind of verifying consciousness and geography provides a framework for community consciousness by integrating information together, looking at processes and changing things. It also provides ideal framework for working on common problems and making community more conscious. GIS supports communities at many levels, local, national, regional and global spatial data infrastructures. It enables participation in larger community networks via web. It’s a part of societal evolution and gives you a network that integrates our natural world with human needs and values.

Keynote Address
Mike Fay, explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, who carried out the Congo expeditions last year using GIS and GPS in an effort to explore some of the unique and fragile biological systems yet remaining in the Congo region, delivered the keynote address. He reported on this and also gave a special message to the users about their role and value to conservation activities around the world.

Map Gallary
Each year hundreds of ESRI users display their maps at the Map Gallery. Map authors representing disciplines from planning and conservation to health care and agriculture will be available to discuss their mapping projects and answer questions.

Special exhibits included GIS in Hindu – Kush Himalayan Region. It displayed all the good work done by International center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), particularly using GIS as a tool to achieve sustainable development throughout this fragile ecosystem. Images of the region’s beautiful landscapes and unique local cultures and examples of how GIS is helping solve complex problems affecting people and their environment were put on display.

Another special exhibit at map Gallary was The District exhibit, showcasing maps from CBS’s new crime drama starring Craig T. Nelson and Lynne Thigpen. The exhibit features COMSTAT, the show’s computer system based on real-world crime analysis applications. Thigpen, who plays Ella Farmer, the show’s director of crime analysis, will be on hand to sign autographs.

Exhibition
The Exhibit hall was opened to public on 10th July. Over 200 ESRI’s business partners, alliance partners, and hardware vendors were displaying various kinds of products and services related to GIS. Slowdown in US economy got clear reflection in the size of the Exhibition. Although the number of exhibitors increased this time but overall size of the exhibition was smaller than the previous year. ESRI had a big Exhibit Pavilion with emphasis on Defence Showcase, Public safety and Law Enforcement and Spatial Outlet. ESRI Showcase offered an excellent opportunity to sit down one – on – one with an ESRI professional, ask questions and test drive the latest GIS tools. Large numbers of visitors kept the Exhibit Area live and exhibitors busy with discussions for exploring more and more business opportunities. Overall the exhibitors looked happy and satisfied with the response from the participants. Major exhibitors include IBM, Compaq, ERDAS, Lieca Geosystems, Sapce Imaging, Hewlett Packard, National Geographic Society, Tele Atlas, LizardTech and Cisco Systems. A new feature to the Exhibition was the European Pavilion with innovative GIS solutions from ESRI,s European business partners.

Sanjay Kumar
Awards

ESRI President Award
ICIMOD received the ESRI President award for the wonderful work done in the field. Dr. Jack Dangermond, president of ESRI, personally selected ICIMOD and its partners in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region. “I’ve had the opportunity to visit the Himalayan Mountains, and I was very impressed with the work ICIMOD has done with building capacity for mountain communities,” said Dangermond. Dr. J. Gabriel Campbell, Director General of ICIMOD said, “We are extremely grateful for the support we have received from the world’s leaders of GIS. ESRI has generously enabled us to bring state-of-the-art technology to this remote and spectacular region of the world to improve planning.” “The continuing support from ESRI has been invaluable and one of the key factors of our success in disseminating this technology throughout the mountain region,” said Basanta Shrestha. ICIMOD’s substantial work, research, and dedication to GIS education in the last decade are reflected in this award. ESRI supports the expansion of GIS utilization within ICIMOD and 45 other GIS institutions and active partners in seven countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan) of the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) umbrella.

ESRI Award to AP Government
The Government of Andhra Pradesh received a special achievement award for adopting and successfully implementing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the State. This award is given to the best user sites from around the world in recognition of their outstanding work in the GIS field. Responding to this recognition, the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu said, “I am happy to learn that ESRI has chosen Andhra Pradesh for the Special Achievement in GIS Award. It is an honour for our officers that their work has been rated to be world class from among 60,000 ESRI sites worldwide.” GIS is playing a strategic role in Andhra Pradesh’s IT initiatives for sustainable development of the State and is being extensively used by several government departments like AP State Remote Sensing Applications Centre, Forest and Environment, Planning, Panchayati Raj, Roads and Buildings and Irrigation among others. GIS also forms an integral part of the AP Hazard Mitigation Information Systems Project. Speaking on the occasion, Mr Rajesh Mathur, President ESRI India said, “It is an honour for GIS users in India that an ESRI site from India has been chosen for the coveted award, the third time in a row.” Two GIS users from India — Space Application Centre and Geological Survey India received this award in 1999 and 2000 respectively.