For this month’s column, we’re going back in time. November meant the changing of the seasons, political elections and eating copious amounts of turkey. But for some of us, it was also the month of GIS Day.
If you haven’t heard of GIS Day, it’s a day dedicated to providing an international forum for users of geographic information systems (GIS) technology to demonstrate real-world applications that make a difference throughout society. This year, it was held Wednesday, Nov. 14.
The first GIS Day took place in 1999. Esri president and co-founder, Jack Dangermond, credits Ralph Nader with being the person to inspire the creation of GIS Day. He thought it would be a good initiative for people to learn about geography and the uses of GIS.
He was right.
GIS Day has become an occasion to celebrate GIS for everything it is, while exploring everything it can be. It’s about discovering and exploring its benefits. And it also allows for the building and nurturing of the GIS community — and the possibility of creating your own.
That community is evident on the GIS Day homepage. Scroll down the page a little bit, and you’ll see a giant map of the GIS Day events around the globe.
Let me repeat that: the globe.
GIS Day was a worldwide event. At the writing of this article, there were three events planned in Ethiopia, 10 in New Zealand, two in Japan, two in Guatemala, hundreds throughout the United States and Canada, and a whole host of others.
There was a “Haunted Dawson Storybooks” event in Yukon, Canada, where attendees created a storymap of haunted sites in Dawson City. At Michigan State University, in East Lansing, Mich., there were two ArcGIS Workshops taught by Esri Education Manager Joseph J. Kerski, PhD, GISP. In Nova Scotia, there was an “Oceans of Data” event, which explored the future of geomatics in the marine environment.
Those events are only a very small sample of the hundreds of events held this year. That’s one of the coolest parts of GIS Day: it covers hundreds of different topics from all walks of life.
In a year filled with contentious debate and political division, isn’t it nice to find a unifying focus? Something that brings cultures, countries and people together. Something to celebrate, rather than hold in contempt.
However, even on GIS Day, GIS didn’t get a day off. In Linda Duffy’s feature this month, GIS is used before, during and after natural disasters to aid in historical monument preservation. While some of the celebrations have been light-hearted, it’s important to note that there’s still serious work being done.
This year, there was an added bonus for GIS Day and that’s the passing of the Geospatial Data Act (GDA). The GDA, signed into law Oct. 5 by President Donald J. Trump, “establishes a clear vision, assigns responsibility, provides authority and ensures oversight by Congress of federal geospatial activities,” writes Cy Smith in an article from the National States Geographic Information Council.
The GDA is a legislative step in the right direction for geospatial data and the advancement of GIS, and will continue to elevate the work of geospatial professionals.
In such a tumultuous environment, it’s important to find joy in the little things. Lucky for us, GIS is a big thing, and its progress in the industry is something to be celebrated — on GIS Day or even simply a Monday.