Knowledge of geographic information system will help in every field, says Michael Gould of Esri

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Published: February 11, 2019 1:12:05 AM

Rooted in the science of geography, GIS integrates many types of data—it analyses spatial location and organises layers of information into visualisations using maps and 3D scenes.

Rooted in the science of geography, GIS integrates many types of data—it analyses spatial location and organises layers of information into visualisations using maps and 3D scenes.

A geographic information system (GIS) is a framework for gathering, managing and analysing data. Rooted in the science of geography, GIS integrates many types of data—it analyses spatial location and organises layers of information into visualisations using maps and 3D scenes. “GIS reveals deeper insights into data, such as patterns, relationships, and situations—helping users make smarter decisions,” says Michael Gould, Global Education Manager, Esri Inc—the supplier of GIS software, web GIS and geodatabase management applications. In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, he adds how GIS is helping students become better at whatever career they choose.

What is the right time a student should start learning GIS?
We work with kids as young as 8-9 years old. They don’t need to become technology experts at that age, but they can start thinking spatially—distance, connectivity, how to use maps, angles, etc. In general, if you know maps and if you understand geography, you tend to be smarter, you tend to think in ways others maybe cannot, and you can understand the world quantitatively.

How does GIS help in higher studies?
GIS brings together multiple technologies and helps students manipulate data better. GIS also leads to developing better teamwork skills among the students—they take field trips, collate the data, discuss with team members … this process leads to better teamwork.

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What all activities Esri India is undertaking right now?
Our software is deployed in 350,000 organisations, including the world’s largest cities and most national governments. In India, we have initiatives such as the GIS Academia Council of India, which brings together thought leaders from the academia to address the social, economic, business and environmental issues that impact our world by applying geography.
Then we have the mApp Your Way. It’s an annual application development challenge organised by Esri India for students (UG, PG, and researchers) associated with the institutions that are users of geospatial technology. By participating in the challenge, students get to interact and work with GIS experts under Esri India’s mentorship programme.
We also have the K-12 initiative that aims to encourage GIS and geographic learning in K-12 schools through ArcGIS Online (mapping and analytics platform) into classrooms across the country. Our GeoMentor Program identifies passionate GIS users who are willing to work as an extended arm to Esri India’s K-12 initiative and work with schools in their region.

Do you also work with universities?
Under the Esri India GIS Academy Program (EIGAP), we engage with academic institutions to help them with the current technology tools and train them to augment their efforts in building the right skilled capacity for the geospatial industry. It is focused on helping institutions set up a GIS lab to impart key GIS skills to students. We also conduct workshops and seminars for students to inform them about the advances in GIS technology, and provide relevant curriculum recommendations on GIS and related technologies.

Is GIS, in itself, a career?
In broader policymaking, GIS is important—you cannot design, implement or monitor policies if you don’t take into consideration the geographical spread. As far as career is concerned, it depends on the objective of a student, say, someone who is planning a career in anything related to geography or geomatics engineering. GIS, essentially, helps you become a better X—the X can be an economist, transportation planner, public health person, someone working in forestry and so on. An analogy is that we all are using computers to be better at whatever we are doing, even though not all of us are computer scientists or software/hardware engineers.

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