Esri South Africa User Conference
Day 2

The 2nd day of the Esri South Africa User Conference began with the keynote plenary from Jim Higgins of Esri Inc, based America. Highlighting valuable insight into the advancements that Esri has made in the field of GIS software to all users in South Africa – more from Jim a little later.

Working on Fire presented next and are an organisation that all South Africans should know more about.

Formed in 2003 Working on Fire recruits young men and women and trains them to implement a range of integrated fire management products and services which includes fire management planning, fire detection, prevention, suppression and community fire awareness. Making use of Esri software, over the past 16 years they have been able to fight almost 22 000 fires over an area of almost 8 million hectares. The use of technological advances in the Esri suite has allowed for better planning, creating more informed fire block burns and breaks in order to prevent disaster.

The Incident Command Viewer keeps track of the multitude of elements involved in fighting  a fire. Including the demographics around a fire to plan such extreme actions as evacuations.

It was great to learn more about how such an important project in South Africa, loved by our President, is making use of the technology available to them in order to be more effective, make better decision (and safer ones) and most importantly…create job opportunities.

Digital Globe Join In.

To celebrate Esri South Africa’s 30th Anniversary, a satellite was commissioned to take an image of all the attendees – which we will surely post as soon as we are able to.

Nyahsha Swift

Nyasha waiting to be photographed from space

Tech Talk

The great advantage to a conference such as this is the access to information and listening to what the smartest people in the room have to say about the world and GIS.

With multiple talks planned throughout the day, broken up into 3 sections running concurrently – Tech Talks , Industry Solutions and the Business Forum, choices had to be made. Today, I went for the tech talks.

Nathi Dikwayo was first up and he was immense. Touching on the dark side of the digital revolution and South Africa but with an incredibly positive message and challenge in how to move forward. Unemployment being at 55.2% in South Africa creates a time bomb of young South Africans searching for digital transformation through changing the status quo.  A focal point in his chat was government institutions and digitizing their collective data to create a more modern solution and how we do that.

Jim Higgin was on stage again shortly after his excellent plenary, highlighting the progression of organisational institutions adopting GIS. And whilst utilities are on the way to being smarter, there is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater in order to reach those goals.

Nathi Dikwayo

Our very own Douglas Bradley had a message to this GIS community and how the Internet Of things will change  the GIS game. The ability to track and measure movements via IoT means creating solutions that are not just about your fridge giving you recipes based  on it’s current contents (which yes is cool). But rather about asking yourself what other problems would gathering all of this data allow us to solve? And it is our responsibility to decipher those questions in order to create workable solutions.

Mike Shaw, Esri’s resident american import gave us an in depth look into how wreck diving makes use of GIS.

Richard Kaufholz took us down memory lane and how technology has been viewed similarly throughout recent history, delivering a strong challenge in his message to all GIS practitioners in South Africa. Think how we can affect lives by using GIS, and come back next year to show us how you are doing that.

Richard Kaufholz

Situational Awareness

The afternoon session brought more choices to make – and the decision was the Situational Awareness session analysing geographic risk. Learning to understand how location analytics helps identify geographical risk to provide better situational awareness that can assist in preventing events and managing reaction to them.

Gregory Breetzke

Professor Greg Breetzke from the University of Pretoria department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Meteorology explained an academic viewpoint on crime and risk. With stats showing 60% of crime occurs within a 5% sector of the population.

How do you determine risk, with limited data pertaining to a sector of the community that requires assistance the most. There are a multitude of methods to analyse data and create risk analysis, Greg’s frenetic verbal pace highlighted the need for access to more in depth information on crime data and statistics in order to hopefully work closer with government to fight crime in a more intelligent method.

Nathi Dikwayo

Andrew Purdon – MAPPS

Did you know that Africa has more fires per day than any other continent in the word? With fire’s on the rise in South Africa, how do we use GIS to create better solutions. Mega fires are likely to become more frequent with rising temperatures of climate change among other factors. With their burnt area product they are able to analyse fires in order to prevent the occurrence and more importantly have more controlled fire’s with better fire break creation. Having mapped over 3568 fires over the last 5 months, that at a has proved invaluable in creating a product that is aimed at better mapping high risk areas and stop fires before they happen.

Matthew Pennells (Esri – Dubai, UAE)

How to manage risk that moves? Very interesting presentation on tying it all together, how do we take the information and turn that into a solution to reduce risk. With excellent examples on crowds, warehousing and even shipping. When location is not brought into risk management and planning, it may leave companies open to disaster even though they believe they have covered all the bases.

Looking forward to Thursday and all the events planned.

– Jay Clark