How has information from the Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc. (ESRI) been used to help the government and society?

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Julie Feng eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Headquartered in Redlands, California, Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc. (ESRI) is a privately held software company that specializes in the development of geographic information systems (GIS). These systems allow users to visualize depictions of data by incorporating it into maps. ESRI conducts research, developmental projects, and serves clients worldwide.

Their customers include every major industry, as well as all levels of government and business—including the CIA, all U.S. Military branches, the Department of Homeland Security, hospitals and healthcare systems, Fortune 500 companies, and many small businesses. With its many applications, ESRI's software can guide military troops; locate lost hikers; find space shuttle debris; document public health concerns; study the effects of global warming; determine where to place schools, roads, fire stations, and restaurants; calculate the most efficient routes for emergency and delivery vehicles; visualize water districts and utility systems; display crime statistics; map the bodies of humans and animals to treat disease; develop effective building floor plans; and more. 

In the past, ESRI’s projects have included the developing of an interstate from Milwaukee to Green Bay, Wisconsin; redeveloping the city of Baltimore, Maryland; pioneering a map-based information system for water resource management in Delaware; working with the Great River Environmental Action Team; and providing free software and training for nonprofit organizations.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, ESRI played a vital role in the cleanup and rescue operations, which earned the company recognition from the American Geographical Society (AGS). In addition to providing manpower and other resources to rebuild New York City's GIS infrastructure, ESRI helped to form the Emergency Mapping and Data Center, which used GIS technology to create maps of command posts, first aid stations, and continuing dangers, such as fires and debris.

Furthermore, in 2003, ESRI's technology was employed in southern Iraq and Kuwait. The project allowed humanitarian workers to collect data with laptop computers and create maps showing the location of residents who needed food and buildings requiring repair. 

Sources: "Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc. (ESRI)." International Directory of Company Histories. Vol. 62. Gale Cengage, 13 Mar, 2014