November 17, 2021

GIS Day 2021 – Time to Rethink GIS

Written by: David McKittrick


As you may already be aware, November 17th has been designated GIS Day for 2021. Some might suggest that such an acknowledgement is little more than a thinly veiled commercial stunt concocted by a behemoth in the industry, akin to National Baklava Day or Mickey Mouse Day, both of which, incidentally, are also celebrated this week. Cynicism aside, it is prudent to assign a date in the calendar on which to share with the populace at large of the importance of the work we do, while simultaneously reminding practitioners that, contrary to popular opinion, GIS is not a four-letter word. 

If the truth be told, every day is GIS Day here at Blue Marble Geographics. On any given day, Blue Marble staffers are busy writing code, testing software, teaching, solving user issues, or sharing the capabilities of our products, all while applying and honing our collective spatial consciousness. While we live, eat, and breathe GIS, most do not, at least on a conscious level. 

In reality, the manifestation of geospatial technology is ever-present, and because of persistent reminders of the challenges we face in today’s world, it is almost impossible to avoid. Our ongoing battle to control the Covid-19 pandemic and the catastrophic consequences of our inability to tackle global climate change have brought GIS to the fore and the principles of geospatial analysis and visualization to the masses. As we often hear, GIS is everywhere.

When comparing the field of GIS in 2021 to that which existed on the first GIS Day over two decades ago, the most significant change has been the widely expanded accessibility of the technology. In the late 1990s, GIS was considered a highly technical discipline and was the exclusive domain of suitably trained professionals. Fast forward to today, and spatial technology is not only within easy reach but also relevant to a much wider audience. Nowhere has this trend been more evident than in the context of academia. 

In the past, only students specifically studying GIS or some closely related field were given the opportunity to learn about this emerging technology. Subsequently, in the professional realm, those with the requisite skills and know-how became the de facto overseers of the entire GIS operations of their company or organization.

Today, GIS has made inroads into a broad variety of academic fields and is included in the curriculum of countless university and college courses. This trend is due in part to the increased availability of accessible GIS applications such as Global Mapper, which have effectively served to disperse the technology. Unencumbered by the complexity of traditional GIS applications, faculty and students from throughout the academic spectrum are now able to apply the relevant geospatial tools in their field of study, which bodes well for the decentralization of democratization of GIS in the professional world.

Acknowledging the importance of this decentralized approach to GIS, Blue Marble has embarked on a series of initiatives to encourage a non-conventional approach to GIS education. First and foremost, it was decided after much deliberation to provide free access to Global Mapper as well as Geographic Calculator for any accredited university in the U.S. and Canada, and to implement a generous discount program throughout the rest of the world. As a result, tens of thousands of students have graduated with a broader understanding of the field of GIS, which provides significant benefits to the industry at large. 

To help facilitate this educational initiative, application specialists at Blue Marble developed a series of academic labs providing a straightforward introduction to some of the fundamental elements of GIS. Comprised of written instructions along with the required data files, these curriculum materials are also available at no cost to universities and colleges.

Several years ago, to encourage student participation and engagement, Blue Marble began offering an annual scholarship to a student with a demonstrated proficiency in Global Mapper. Over the years, participants have shared their academic endeavors and research in the form of written reports, posters, and videos, and each year, one deserving student has received a $500 scholarship for their efforts. This year, an additional incentive has been included with the winning entry also receiving their own copy of Global Mapper Pro. 

The submission deadline for the 2021-22 academic year scholarship is the end of November, so what better way to spend GIS Day 2021 than to grab another piece of baklava while putting the final touches on your submission.

For more information on Blue Marble’s academic programs, visit

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