UNOSAT boosts partnership for geographic information servicesThe use of specialized software is an important component of advanced geographic information and satellite derived analysis; both need reliable technology for geographic information systems (GIS) and geodatabase management. Geographic information systems integrate hardware, software and data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information. At UNOSAT these systems are used to deliver excellence in satellite derived analysis for operational areas as diverse as humanitarian relief, human rights law, human security monitoring, and territorial planning including local development.

Esri, the Geographic Information Company, and UNITAR have moved to strengthen their partnership to better support the work of UNOSAT, the Operational Satellite Applications Porgramme that has become popular by delivering high-end image analysis and situation maps to a growing audience of international and national entities. The increase of cooperation was prompted by UNOSAT’s strategic choice to rely mainly on Esri solutions even though other software solutions are routinely utilized at UNOSAT for both research and operations.

GIS allows UNOSAT experts and trainers to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that help reveal relationships, patterns, and trends that are not necessarily apparent in other non-visual forms of knowledge. GIS is also used in training modules up to Master level delivered by UNOSAT to train professionals, emergency responders and development planners from all regions of the world.

In 2011, UNITAR and Esri decided to strengthen their relationship by signing an agreement for three years defining software and licensing issues and new cooperation in the areas of training, capacity development and e-learning. An important in-kind grant by Esri is also part of the agreement.

During humanitarian emergencies and other human security related operations, access to up-to-date, relevant information is crucial. With the development of Geographic Information Services, the time between an observation and the visualization of the work resulting from expert analysis is brought to a minimum. Francesco Pisano, who manages the UNOSAT Programme, says: “This improves our decision support tools and augments objective situational awareness for decision makers and actors in the field. Human rights violations can be documented, damage assessment campaigns are conducted more rapidly, and situational analysis can be performed in time spans that were unthinkable only a few years ago”.

Esri President Jack Dangermond said: “I am pleased that UNOSAT is able to leverage the resources of Esri to help in doing their most important humanitarian efforts around the world. My colleagues and I have seen firsthand the difference their work makes and are proud to be a small part of their contributions through our strategic agreement.”

The Esri President and the Manager of UNOSAT met recently in Geneva where Dangermond visited the UNOSAT production facility and discussed with Pisano of future developments and additional avenues of cooperation based on the continued growth of UNOSAT activities and areas of specialization.

More than a million people around the world use Esri's GIS every day. A growing portion of them is made of UN experts, information officers and GIS technicians in the field who represent also an important part of the UNOSAT audience.Esri has a long history as a company and as a pioneer of geographic information systems. The company develops solutions that function as an integral component in nearly every type of organization using GIS today. Untypically for a large company, Esri is privately own and headed by its founder Jack Dangermond. This has meant coherence and stability over the years with an acute sense of the importance of listening to users and their needs, which is also a central element of the UNOSAT approach.  

Image by UNITAR/UNOSAT