Using real knowledge of real places to help create a more connected society

Tapping into real-world spatial information allows government and public sector bodies to turn data into decisions

Dermot O’Kane, head of sales, Esri Ireland: ‘It’s an exciting time, and GIS is right there, leading the charge’

Data is now at the centre of decision-making for organisations of all sizes and kinds – but there is more to data than monitoring market trends or customer sentiment.

After all, things all happen somewhere, so space and place are crucial information points. As a result, the geospatial data provided by geographic information system (GIS) technology is a crucial factor in planning and decision-making.

Company Details

Esri Ireland

Year founded: 2002

Number of staff: 79

Why it is in the news: Geospatial data adds a crucial dimension to the information required for delivery of services: where people and things are

Dermot O’Kane, head of sales at GIS software specialists Esri Ireland, said that while the public might not know much about GIS, the technology was deeply embedded in our lives.

“It’s arguable as to whether GIS is or isn’t mainstream. While GIS was not as widely adopted three or four years ago, it has since become prevalent in both government and private sectors. The extent to which the public is aware of GIS applications in everyday technology remains uncertain, yet the integration of geospatial data into various industries is now a common practice,” he said.

Of course, people today routinely use services based on digital maps, but the data provided by GIS goes much deeper.

“The GIS landscape has undoubtedly changed due to technological advancements driven by investment in research and development, culminating in a system that is highly capable and is accessible anytime and anywhere,” he said.

At its core, Esri Ireland provides clients, including public sector bodies, with tools to capture, analyse, and present spatial information. Key among these is ArcGIS, a location-based analytics platform that offers unique capabilities for mapping and spatial data analytics, O’Kane said.

“It’s designed to help organisations, including governments, make smarter decisions by visualising and analysing data within a geographic context,” he said.

“All of our systems are implemented in the cloud, be that SaaS [software as a service] that we host for them, or on their own AWS or Azure platform. Our customers aren’t deploying as an isolated system,” he said.

GIS is not just about maps; it’s about connecting dots in ways we didn’t think possible

This means that once they are using the software, users can immediately collaborate and share insights through maps, apps, dashboards, and reports.

Communication and collaboration is not limited to internal activity, however. As GIS is about people in place, it allows for deeper engagement with what individuals and groups are actually doing. Crucially, then, Esri Ireland ensures the government’s digital transformation is grounded in accurate and actionable geospatial data.

“Our technology and expertise are crucial in community and citizen engagement, helping to create a more connected and informed society,” O’Kane said.

“Our GIS mapping software and spatial data analytics are vital in supporting the Irish government’s initiatives in digital governance. By providing tools that facilitate better policy-making and service delivery, Esri Ireland contributes to the creation of smart cities, environmental management, and public safety solutions,” he said.

Cutting through the confusion

O’Kane said that when engaging with the public sector, Esri Ireland wanted to enable decisions to be made.

“ArcGIS platform is like the Swiss Army knife for data analytics. It’s helping the Irish government cut through the noise and get straight to the point.

“With ArcGIS, we are at the heart of government decisions and planning, they’re mapping out everything from city and town planning, the building of schools, the housing of refugees, the national roll-out of broadband, improving the water network, building sustainable transport networks, environmental sustainability and monitoring, and much more. It’s all about making informed decisions with a bird’s-eye view of the data,” he said.

Seen this way, GIS is not just about maps; it’s about connecting dots in ways we didn’t think possible, and O’Kane said that thanks to Esri’s technology, the Irish government is not just keeping up but setting the pace.

“All this innovation means better services, more transparency, and a government that’s more responsive to its people. It’s tech for the people, by the people, and of the people, you could say,” he said.

The end result is delivering services that are not just efficient but intuitive.

“Think about waste management that predicts when bins are full or traffic lights that adapt to real-time traffic flow. It’s like having a city that listens and responds to its citizens’ needs.”

In addition, he said, GIS provides crucial data for, and integrates with, innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), adding the brainpower to deliver smart services.

“It’s crunching numbers and patterns to make sense of complex data. For instance, AI can help predict which buildings are at risk of fire or which streets might flood during a storm. It’s about being proactive rather than reactive,” he said.

GIS can help with change management for the public and for government, he said.

“It helps manage the transition by visualising the impact of changes before they happen. It’s like having a crystal ball that helps everyone get on board with new ways of doing things.

“It’s an exciting time, and GIS is right there, leading the charge. A decade ago, GIS was relegated to a niche role, with specialists quietly crafting physical maps. Now, it has seamlessly integrated into platforms like Office 365, transcending traditional maps to become an interactive tool for spatial analysis,” he said.