07 March 2018

Sri Lanka is home to an estimated 15,000+ GIS Professionals and Users. GIS (Geographical Information systems) Technology has been used in the country for over two and a half decades across varied levels. The fact that Universities across the country offers Postgraduate courses in GIS and highlights GIS standing in the nation.


Although the ArcGIS Platform has been in use in Sri Lanka since the 1990s, with almost all of Sri Lanka’s authoritative maps are being created using this platform and GIS decisions have been made using this platform, very little hype was created around it.


GIS Solutions (Pvt) Ltd., a group company of Just in Time Group, is the Sole Authorized distributor of the ArcGIS platform – developed by Esri (environmental Systems Research Institute USA – better known by the Acronym Esri). Esri too organizes similar User Conferences worldwide along with its international distributors with its primary and largest GIS conference in the world being the Esri International ArcGIS User Conference which is held in San Diego every year and attracts close to 17,000 registered attendees from worldwide.


The Objectives of the Conference

The Sri Lanka ArcGIS User Conference (SLAUC 2018) aims to bring together the community of ArcGIS Users in Sri Lanka at a national level to enhance knowledge, highlight their work on ArcGIS platform and educate them  and their key decision makers (both Public & Commercial sector) on new developments of the technology and providing an opportunity to network with Peers. There were 250+ registered GIS professionals present at this event


The conference also strives to build the capacity of GIS professionals in the country while creating stronger links and collaboration in the local GIS Community. The event displayed the work already successfully implemented GIS project by some of the leading ArcGIS community members.


Another aim is to promote the effective and ethical use of spatial information and Geospatial technologies that will contribute meaningfully better understand, Manage and face challenges of the nation and its citizens.


This event helped bringing leading GIS community professionals, decision makers, academia and users of Sri Lanka together. The event was held at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute Conference hall, Colombo, Sri Lanka on the 6th of March 2018.


ArcGIS in Sri Lanka

GIS is a wonderful multi-faceted technology to help visualize current information and data meaningfully on a map to make better sense. A Map can tell a story that a graph or a chart may not be able. The fact that every point on a GIS Map is linked to a database that can be immediately visualized  means that data can be accessed on an device, anywhere anytime through WebGIS services to make smart decisions that are more informed. Even creating a hypothesis for the future - be it for future trends or events to planning managing assets to connecting information to field staff or regional branches to head office - it can be done real time with ArcGIS platform. Governments and organizations worldwide use GIS to optimize of the use of its resources and save costs and time across any industry, any sector and any government. ArcGIS is the most used GIS Software platform worldwide as well as locally.


In Sri Lanka, the Public Sector continues to be the largest user of GIS both as a Mapping tool. To draw maps and making decisions - GIS is used but the true potential contribution of GIS to the nation is not yet fully tapped into and the use of GIS as an essential management decision support tool is still not utilized to its full potential.


The conference theme this year was “GIS Enabling the Digitalization of the Nation” is pertinent to Sri Lanka as we are going through a digital transformation as a nation. Leveraging on ArcGIS technology to improve and enhance the digitalization of the nation and the quality of life for citizens. GIS plays a critical role in this, as it empowers leaders to visualize, question, analyze, and interpret organizational data to better understand relationships and trends in their community. 


Ashani Jayasinghe, CEO of GIS Solutions (Pvt) Ltd, welcomed the delegates and invitees and highlighted on the importance of the local GIS community to come together as a family a network and a part of a global organization of ArcGIS Users to share and learn from each other’s experiences to help solve challenges that our nation faces. She stated the appreciation of the great work done by GIS community for the nation needs more prominence. She also sighted some of the great ArcGIS project implementations carried out which included; The application of GIS, information Management & monitoring system by i-Road Project of the Road development Authority, The Sustainable energy Authorities Nama project, Survey Dept’s automation data sharing with the registry of Lands using GIS technology for “Parcel Extraction” as well as, Synchronizing of district level land parcel data. The brilliant work the department of Archeology in Sri Lanka has done with GIS and the GIS Hutchinson Telecom for business, the great work at the Centre Research Development of Ministry of Defense, have done using the ArcGIS platform.

Ashani also announced the Schools free Licensing program that is to be launched this year  with the Ministry of Education so that Local schools with have access to ArcGIS Software free of charge. Furthermore, almost all State Universities in Sri Lanka has embraced ArcGIS platform for GIS under a special licensing scheme with the University of Peradeniya and University of Moratuwa. These universities have gone one-step further and deployed the ‘University Site License’ program, which enables them to provide genuine software licenses for all faculties that need it and students on an on-loan basis. She also urged the user community to optimize on their investments on GIS by staying current on Software maintenance and using only genuine software in their respective organization as a good governance practice.


The Keynote Address:  GIS Enabling the Digital Transformation of the nation

“GIS Enabling the Digital Transformation of the nation” Was the theme of this years’ event. Mr. Agendra Kumar  -  President of Esri India – (the Esri Distributor for the Indian Sub-Continent ) did the keynote address at the conference on how GIS technology and the ArcGIS Platform is enabling the Digital Transformation of India and helping the government and private organizations to save time money and do better planning . In his own words “ Our world is facing many challenges – climate changes, urbanization, natural disasters, growing energy requirements etc. require governments to take steps to mitigate the risks from these challenges. GIS provides a framework to set-up processes that would help government officials in managing the situation emerging out of these changes. GIS technology is progressing fast, from being just a ‘system of record’, it is now a ‘system of insight’ and a ‘system of engagement’, it is helping people, communities and organizations in engaging with each other. It is helping governments in delivering better services to their citizens and in monitoring the implementation of government initiatives and programs”. In his speech Agendra presented several examples from India and rest of the world of how GIS has helped various key organizations, in the areas like Smart Cities and Urban Development, Agriculture, Mapping, Disaster Management, Transportation among others

Donation of Free ArcGIS Software Bundles to Schools



The Event Highlights and Key Sessions:


Special Achievement in GIS Award

Each year one organization from each Country in the world is recognized, through the SAG Awards (SAG - Special Achievement in GIS Award) at Esri’s International User Conference - The world's largest GIS event. In 2017, more than 150 organizations from across the world were selected from approximately 300,000 organizations to receive a Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) Award in a special ceremony held at the Esri International user conference – Esri UC. The winning organizations received this honor for their vision, leadership, hard work, and innovative use of Esri's geographic information system (GIS) technology. We like to honour and handover the award for the winner for the year 2017. ADB Funded the Integrated Road Investment Program / Project of the Road Development Authority of Sri Lanka  


The iRoad project aimed to improve the connectivity between rural communities and socioeconomic centers by improving the transport efficiency on selected national, provincial and local roads. Under the iRoad Program, around 3000km of rural roads were rehabilitated. ArcGIS platform was used as a management information tool, a platform to monitor progress, communicate, and collaborate with all stakeholders. The a SAG award (Special Achievement in GIS Award) was handed over by Agendra Kumar  – President Esri India to the Road Development Authority for their excellence in the use of ArcGIS technology for the iRoad Project.



One Map Sri Lanka – Sri Lankan School Children and GIS Professionals Creates a Map of the most interesting places in the country using ArcGIS:

World GIS day (Geographical Information System day) is celebrated around the world every year on the 3rd Wednesday of the month of November as a part of National Geographic’s & Geographical awareness week. GIS Solutions (Pvt) Ltd., together with the Survey Department of Sri Lanka as an initiative to promote the use and value of maps & mapping technology and GIS especially amongst schoolchildren. A competition was conducted that involved mapping interesting and historically important places onto a digital map via a Special App. This is the 2nd year consecutively this was conducted as island-wide competition titled “One Map Sri Lanka” and targeting both Professional GIS Users  and GIS Technologists and School students. They were required to send in digitally via the App or via email a picture of a place/location that they considered to have some historical/cultural/environmental significance or importance from their own surroundings, along with a description, corresponding Longitude & latitude exact coordinates (Geo coordinates). All entries received were added a Special Sri Lanka Digital GIS Map called, “One Map Sri Lanka” Which was created on the ArcGIS Software Platform  and “One Map Sri Lanka (2017 edition) was unveiled during  a special event by the Surveyor General and CEO of GIS Solutions. The top three Student Winners of this one Map Competition were recognized and awarded gifts and certificates at The Sri Lanka ArcGIS User Conference they were:

  1. Keran Christina Gray - Good Shepherd Convent, Kandy
  2. D M E B Dissanayake - Maliyadewa  Vidyalaya, Kurunegala
  3. P A Anjali Navodya - Ananda National School, Chilaw


There were many entries from all over Sri Lanka and most of them were of a very high standard from students, and GIS ArcGIS Technology users from all across the country and, the maps were showcased once again at the conference.


Map Gallery & Map Gallery Contest

A special feature of this year’s Conference was the ‘Map Gallery’, which showcased some of the finest maps created by leading Public Sector organizations such as; The Survey Department of Sri Lanka, The Urban Development Authority, Central Environmental Authority, Department of Wildlife and Conservation, Road Development Authority, University of Peradeniya, University of Colombo, Overseas school of Colombo, International Water Management Institute and The Smallholder Tea and Rubber Revitalization project.

Some of the interesting themed Maps included The toilet Map of Slave Island presented by Center Poverty Analysis (CEPA)  , Distribution of Brugian Fliaria in the Gampaha district, GIS as Solution to increase the Paddy productivity by University of Peradeniya , Application of GIS and Multi criteria decision analysis for identifying and monitoring Road Traffic Accident from RDA , Identification of Optimum route alignment in Land sight areas using GIS and Remote Sensing, GIS Approach for identification of degraded Lands in Kandy District by Central Environmental Authority are just a few examples of the Maps that were on display.  Conference participants had to vote for their most preferred Map creation via an electronic voting application , and winners received certificates and awards


Technical Demos by Leading Organizations

This years Sessions featured presentations from Prominent users from the Public sector taking the lead on GIS and the use of ArcGIS technology at their respective organizations as every day applications

Listed are a few of them


Presentation and Demonstration by Lanka Electricity Company  

Lanka Electricity Company (LECO) Demonstrated how they used ArcGIS Technology to digitally Map the electric distribution Network and manage  outages and network assets to better serve their customers and save money and time and do planning and forecasting better . Eng. Miss. Heshani Mahalaksa, Electrical Engineer did the demonstration on behalf of LECO.


Department of Archeology

Archaeology Department is one of the most valuable GIS dataset holders in Sri Lanka. They are the guardians of our national heritage. They continue to discover and Map the proud heritage of the country and demarcates the site locations with detail data pertaining to each site . They showcased how ArcGIS Technology and how they developed their own mobile Apps that helped them to monitor and better manage these  archaeological sites more efficiently and effectively and saved money , time and resources for the Department


Sustainable Energy authority of Sri Lanka

Sustainable Energy Authority together with UNDP NAMA  project collaborated with GIS Solutions (Pvt) Ltd. developed a Web GIS Application where they can create, Manage, Analyze and share data with key stakeholders of the project and investors of renewable energy . For this application They used ArcGIS Desktop, ArcGIS Server, ArcGIS API for JavaScript and several webGIS techniques. This was a useful MIS or a  management information tool for their decision makers and the stakeholders alike.


Survey Dept. of Sri Lanka

Surveyor General PMP Udayakantha – in his presentation highlighted the new developments the survey department has made thanks to the deployment of GIS technology to make its operations more efficient. He also  importance of sharing spatial data (location based map data) for Sri Lanka . He discussed the importance of a framework and stakeholder participation for such an initiative The Team From the Survey Department of Sri Lanka showcased their latest GIS developments using the ArcGIS Platfrom .

Whilst Well known GIS expert  & Lecturer Mr. S. Sivanandarajan from the Survey Department of Sri Lanka demonstrated the latest image processing techniques in ArcGIS platform which is enabling the Survey department to create great Maps easily using just a single software .


Center of Research and Development  from the Ministry of Defence (MoD)

The Team from Center of Research and Development  from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) which included Lt.Col. Rasika Kahadagamage, Squadron Leader Indunil Sanjeewa and Captain Wasantha Kumara showcased how the latest Drone Mapping technology is used. They did a live demonstration and flew a drone across Independence square and created a comprehensive GIS Map , they further explained that this is useful state of the art technology  and extremely cost effective method of field surveying and gathering data especially in terrains , areas that maybe otherwise not easily reachable

Centre for Research and development of the Ministry of defence was one of the first organizations to experiment with this technology application in Sri Lanka.


Atomic Energy Board of Sri Lanka

The Atomic Energy Board of Sri Lanka is involved in the monitoring of radiation levels of the country to protect Sri Lankan nation from unexpected nuclear explosions. As the neighboring countries have already implemented several nuclear plants, Sri Lanka is also vulnerable for manmade nuclear disasters and radiation level monitoring is highly important for the whole country. The Atomic Energy Board has developed a unique GIS layer based information system of the radiation distribution in Sri Lanka with the radiation measurements by using ArcGIS platform and performs various analysis . Mr. Nirodha Ranasinghe Scientific Officer, Radiation Protection & Technical Services Division, and Ms. Shakila Priyadarshani Scientific Officer/Isotope Hydrology showcased the organizations application of GIS .


The Conference activities was of great interest to GIS Users in GIS Community and technological decision makers of Sri Lanka who has the responsibility for the management and implementation of geospatial technology in leading organizations and public sector & Private sector, senior government officials, GIS academia, and students.