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Esri User Conference 2014: GIS – Creating Our Future

By Peter Fitzgibbon - 15th August 2014 - 10:42

From 16 attendees in 1981 to more than 16,000 in 2014, Esri's international user conference continues to impress, enthuse and stimulate in equal measure

Beginning on July 14, 2014, Esri hosted its 34th Esri User Conference (UC) in San Diego, California. From 16 attendees at the first conference in 1981 to more than 16,000 in 2014, it is amazing to witness how much GIS hasgrown and its tremendous impact on bettering our world.

Esri president Jack Dangermond opened the conference with a quote from Peter Drucker, saying, “The best way to predict the future is to create the future.” Dangermond spoke about the challenges society is facing today and how GIS connects people, data, and other mechanisms to shape the future rather than just watch it happen. Geography, he said, is now more important than ever.

Conference attendees heard from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who not only thanked Esri for bringing new technology to the global economy, but also announced that her office will be appointing the first ever U.S. Chief Data Officer in the near future. The topic of this important segment was all about building resilient communities, and it fostered the announcement of GeoPlanner for ArcGIS, a new Esri application for Geodesign that will allow users to leverage GIS capabilities to plan and make decisions. In addition, Dangermond announced the release of ArcGIS Pro, a new application that runs side-by-side with ArcMap. ArcGIS Pro will respond to things users have been asking for, including the support of multiple layouts, a modern user interface, and the ability to create a map on their desktop and turn it into a web map automatically.

With the excitement of these new applications came the need to talk about great science—the foundation of resilience. Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, former NASA astronaut and NOAA Administrator, talked about bringing science to life from a young age and how maps are “vehicles of exploration.” After she spoke, two young students came on stage to speak about GIS projects they had done in their fourth-grade classroom in Springdale, Arkansas. All of these presentations and announcements showed the power of GIS for users of all ages.

The plenary session on Monday ended with the UC keynote from Dr. Bruce Aylward of the World Health Organization and Dr. Vincent Seaman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Their emotionally appealing presentation discussed the devastating effects of polio. They were challenged with vaccinating 500 million children, which alone is a daunting task. But thanks to GIS, the initiative to eradicate polio is on the brink of success.

Join us next year for UC 2015 July 20–24 in San Diego, California. See more on the 2014 Esri User Conference at

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