Geographical Information Systems
Technology is an important tool in every facet of society. It revolutionizes the idea of progress and allows the world to interconnect. The usage of technology to benefit humanitarian aid has been no exception, such as revolutionizing the ability to transport supplies to provide urban communities with the tools necessary to ensure clean water access. Technology, such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS), is a prominent tool in the fight against global poverty.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has solidified itself as a major inhibitor to global health in 2020. Many countries do not have the supplies, technology or economic safety nets to ensure that their people receive what they need throughout the pandemic. Many organizations are doing what they can to provide countries with the tools they need to combat COVID-19 in their communities. One of the largest Geographical Information Systems technology companies is Esri. It has been utilizing GIS technology in the context of humanitarian work for decades. Jack and Laura Dangermond founded Esri in 1969 in a Harvard lab. Since then, Esri has expanded and utilized this technology in a variety of sectors. For example, Esri used GIS technology to map the spread of Ebola in 2013.

Geographical Information Systems Mapping and COVID-19

As it became apparent that COVID-19 would become a pandemic, Johns Hopkins University began creating a virtual dashboard to depict concentrations of the virus in an attempt to stifle its spread. Johns Hopkins researchers utilized technology from Esri in order to do this. Throughout the pandemic, Esri has prioritized the lives of those in our international communities over monetary gain. As a result, Esri made all of its software and training modules available to international organizations for free. Additionally, Esri’s Disaster Response Program helps its international partners utilize its technology.

Transparency in regard to information is crucial in order to prevent the continued spread of the current pandemic. In order to properly combat the virus, community leaders must consider all societal factors. It is impossible to do this without access to all of the information relating to various communities. One can utilize Esri’s geographic information system technology to visualize the spread of diseases. It can also map disease response centers and the availability of medical supplies. For example, some have used GIS technology to show both hospitals and the availability of medicine, as well as preventative resources such as testing locations and isolation areas.

The usage of this technology for humanitarian coronavirus assistance does not stop there. GIS technology has also been useful in determining which international communities are the most at risk of coronavirus-related illness and community degradation. For instance, the geographical information system can map which communities contain the highest concentration of those at risk of the disease. It can also map the communities that have the highest GDP allocation to economic assistance and communities that have access to affordable medical care.

Rwanda as an Example

Rwanda is one country that has been utilizing GIS technology to its advantage during the COVID-19 pandemic. The country uses geographic information system technology to effectively trace contact between people in their communities, enabling them to follow and contain the virus. This contact tracing has also helped allocate funds within Rwandan communities in efficient ways. With case and death numbers very low, it is possible that Rwanda’s use of GIS technology helped the country fight the virus.

While technology can bring about new problems, it can also bring about new answers. Knowledge is power, especially when combating an international pandemic. Additionally, geographic information system technology has been providing helpful information to international communities. The coronavirus pandemic threatens those in global poverty in many ways, both in terms of global health and economic prosperity. Accurate mapping of who is the most at risk is crucial to ensuring that nobody is forgotten throughout the pandemic.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: Flickr