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Esri Co-Founder Shares Vision for Future of Governments and GIS

Digital technology using GIS can help humans consciously create a future that may help resolve some of the globe’s most vexing issues, says Jack Dangermond.

(TNS) — The world is facing daunting conditions, from climate change, declining biodiversity and dwindling natural environments to social conflicts and the loss of a peaceful society.

Esri co-founder Jack Dangermond thinks the geographic information systems he and wife Laura have pioneered with their Redlands-based staff can help make a difference.

“These are challenging times,” he said Monday night, March 14, at the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside. “All the arrows are going in the wrong direction.”

Speaking at the World Affairs Council of Inland Southern California’s 50th anniversary dinner, Dangermond said digital technology using geographic information systems, or GIS, can help human beings consciously create a future that may help resolve some of the globe’s most vexing issues.

Geography is a holistic science that provides information about what’s going on and context for seeing and understanding it, he said.

“Geography is a subject. But also a framework within which you can talk about the future. And what ought to happen,” he said during his talk, “Creating Our Future: Sustainable Solutions for Our World.”

Esri has become an international company since its launch 47 years ago.

At the company’s Redlands headquarters, employees work to advance the science and technology of digital mapping tools and support about 350,000 government agencies, non-governmental organizations, businesses and utilities using those tools around the globe.

Clients use the tools to monitor air quality and forest carbon reserves, manage forests and plan marine protections, guide agricultural development and business expansions, monitor disease outbreaks and develop natural energy sources.

They plan urban development, assist crime surveillance, predict earthquakes and fires, and support peacekeeping and humanitarian missions, said Dangermond, showing maps on a big screen.

People must take responsibility for building the future as the planet grows more populated, rather than continue to “unconsciously” shape the future, he said.

GIS systems can predict outcomes and “provide a foundation for human action” to help meet global goals for sustainable development on issues such as gender equality, hunger, poverty and climate change, he said.

Computer software and mobile applications are making use of digital geographic information more prevalent and accessible to everyone.

The more research is posted online, the more networking, sharing and communication can take place between scientists, agencies, and even citizens and government bodies.

The question is whether information can be put out there so people can change their ways before it’s too late, he added.

“We might have a shot,” he said. “We can be the effect of the future. Or we can be the cause of it.”

©2016 The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.