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Esri User Conference: “Creating a Smarter World”

August 2016
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Esri-inspired artwork displayed during the User Conference at the San Diego Convention Center.

Recently, IDP Foundation found themselves at 32.7066 degrees N, 117.1618 degrees W: the San Diego Convention Center. There, we attended the week-long Esri User Conference along with 15,000 other students and professionals from around the world.

Esri is the market leader in geographic information systems (GIS) software development, which allows users to analyze geographically-referenced data collected by leveraging satellite and GPS technologies. An incredibly diverse range of industries utilize Esri’s suite of powerful apps, including national security, health, environmental services, public works, and more. Data harnessed through the platform can be shared in a variety of map formats, or as Story Maps, which bring together media and location data to create informative and accessible maps for the public. A huge takeaway for the IDP Foundation was the sheer power and potential of GIS software when it comes to sharing our work with the rest of the world.

GIS has been rapidly expanding into the nonprofit sector, thanks in part to Esri’s commitment to making their learning resources and software available to these organizations at a steep discount or no cost. Esri itself is building a platform to showcase the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and we had the opportunity to view how SDG indicators are being tracked to show the progress of countries around the world. It is a powerful tool that can harness open-source data released by the government and present it in a clear, cohesive way. In the meantime, Esri has built an impressive Story Map that presents background information and data on each of the 17 goals. After attending the Esri User Conference and seeing just how powerful GIS can be, we are hopeful that mapping the SDGs will accelerate their progress to being achieved.

For our part, we are currently recording data on all of the Rising Schools in Ghana using Esri’s Collector app, which grants us the capability to drop a pin at the exact location of a school using GPS coordinates, even without Wi-Fi or cellular data. We are also able to input data on school enrollment, toilets, loans, and more, which we gather through interviews with school proprietors. Since all of Esri’s apps work together seamlessly, the data is plotted onto a map of Ghana so that we are able to understand the breadth of the program’s reach. In light of the User Conference, we are working on building a map that allows for the best user-experience possible, and with enough detailed information that it could be an asset to others working in global education. This includes sharing information with governmental bodies, who can analyze the data and consider it when making decisions.

Our Rising Schools Program map continues to grow as we visit each of the more than 500 schools that have participated in the program. Information collected from each site visit can be seen by clicking on a point on the map. We also plan on publishing our own Story Maps that further detail the work and progress of the IDP Rising Schools Program and the IDP Foundation as a whole. Utilizing this medium will engage our audiences, promote transparency, and show how far our programs have come.

Be sure to periodically visit to see all of the exciting Esri updates!

Esri-inspired artwork displayed during the User Conference at the San Diego Convention Center.
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