UNOSAT reinforces partnership with Esri for edge geographic information services
The 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. A geographic information system integrates 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.
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 Esri, the Geographic Information Company, and UNITAR have strengthened their partnership to better support UNOSAT, the UNITAR 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 with Esri derives from 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. The distinctive advantage of Esri technology resides in its versatility and its status as a commonly accepted standard.
UNITAR and Esri decided to formalize their relationship by signing an agreement for three years defining not only software and licensing issued but also new cooperation in the field of training, capacity development and e-learning. An important in-kind grant by Esri to UNOSAT 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. This improves decision support processes 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.
As standard practice the work of UNOSAT is made available to the international community in the form of maps disseminated via internet. This is especially the case during emergencies and humanitarian crises. As user requirements evolve and on-line mapping tools become more popular, the need emerges to share data and information in different ways, for example using ArcGIS online as an UN Spatial Data Infrastructure node to be consumed in simple, easy to use web and mobile applications, giving a common operating view to the humanitarian community and those involved in mapping activities.
Geographic Information is more used today in the UN system than it was at the origins of UNOSAT in 2000. While UNOSAT remains the central reference within the UN for the processing and analysis of satellite data and imagery, several UN entities have developed sounder GIS capacity and now use geographic information in a variety of ways to organize, analyze, visualize and share information, for example in support of the Millennium Goals.
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 (photo left). 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 a leading aspect of UNOSAT strategy as well. 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.
UNOSAT and its partners are working constantly to develop better solutions and bring innovation to agencies and national entities engaged in accessing, protecting and brining relief to those in greater need anywhere they are on the world map. The strengthening of the partnership with Esri is an important additional step in this direction.