Videos from last week’s ESRI Federal User Conference are now online. Coverage includes an introduction and vision by Jack Dangermond, and various product demos. There’s also the keynote speech by Dr. John Holdren, former director of the Woods Hole Research Center, and currently the science advisor to President Barack Obama.
Holdren outlined the president’s commitment to science and technology, with detailed accounts of the priorities both locally and globally, as well as mention of specific spending in the economic stimulus package. Holdren then went on to relate his reliance on GIS in his work to understand global change, and the special place that GIS has in policy decisions.
At almost exactly the halfway mark of his talk, Holdren posted a slide with “The GIS Connection.” Here he declared that GIS data is fundamental to good decisions, and that geographic visualization is the most useful kind of visualization for making and understanding policy. Holdren also stated that GIS visualizations integrates different data sets and ideas, and provide new forms for coordination and collaboration.
Holdren then provided some interesting examples of government and public/private partnerships to address national and global challenges that included:
- Virtual USA - Homeland Security initiative for information sharing for emergency response, with demonstrated 70% increase in response time
- USGS Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response (PAGER)
- NOAA Remote Sensing – thousands of images used in the Haiti earthquake response
- Snowmap.gov – location of snowplows around the DC area
- U.S. Influenza Surveillance System
- Recovery.gov – GIS-based site to show where the money has gone
- EPA’s “My Environment“
- NOAA CarbonTracker - Causes and consequences of global climate change
Holdren spent a good deal of time discussing the problems of climate change, and the need for data-driven science to address adaptation. This global change as an impetus for science application and discovery was central to his entire talk, and reinforced the need and government reliance on geographic information systems.