Every year before the Esri International User Conference, Jack Dangermond, Esri's president, invites executives in government and business to discuss the challenges the face in managing their business and how geospatial information can support their work. Over 300 gather for sessions where C-level managers provide mini keynotes. From mayors to ministers to cabinet secretaries, each has a story to tell, one seemingly more complex in scope than the other.
Dangermond, for his part, sets the stage by hitting themes on cloud computing, location-aware mobile devices and the impact of social media. More importantly, he lets executives talk to other executives. There is no greater benefit than hearing someone with a huge problem tell how GIS was not just a tool but, as the Honorable Maurice Williamson, Minister for Building and Construction and Land Information for New Zealand described it as the most "incredibly valuable tool for a dreadful experience" when he discussed the earthquakes that leveled many buildings and took many lives in Christchurch in 2010 and 2011.
Dangermond hit on many themes in his brief introduction including:
- Data is growing exponentially with LiDAR, crowdsourcing, and satellite imagery
- Crowdsourcing can complement authoritative sources
- Social media is providing new data sources
- Apps on mobile devices support the notion of “pervasive GIS”
- GIS can now be implemented on multiple platforms.
- We can begin to deliver geography as a platform
This last statement has to give everyone pause because most people probably have little understanding of what he means. He's not referring to Google Earth as a platform to visualize data nor a web portal that simply displays thematic maps or a web service that provides some limited applications. Fundamentally, Dangermond believes that geography is a first consideration in analyzing enterprise data. Not the last … not the middle … not by throwing up a basic map of sales by state into a BI dashboard. No, Dangermond believes you base your performance indices on the fundamental premise that location-based data is inherent and strategic.