Using GIS to tackle the SDGs

The deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is set for 2030; 2023 is the halfway point. However, as various media recently reported (e.g. SRF), we are on track for only one-seventh of the 17 goals and 169 sub-goals. Taking up there, how do companies, NGOs and public institutions here in Switzerland monitor their progress towards the goals, and how can GIS software help? Five speakers provided answers from different perspectives at the event “Using GIS to tackle the SDGs” on 28 September 2023, organized by the GIS Hub and ESRI Switzerland.

Ross Purves, the director of the GIS Hub, opened the event and welcomed everybody. In his introduction to the event, Stefan Graf from ESRI Switzerland showed some examples of SDGs that are monitored with an ArcGIS Tool i.e., the Covid-19 Dashboard by the Johns Hopkins University addressing goal no. 3 “Good Health and Well-Being”, the Solar Cadastre Map from Greater Geneva addressing “Affordable and Clean Energy” (goal no. 7) or the World Glacier Monitoring Service at the University of Zurich, related to “Climate Action” (goal no. 13).

Mobility: Find new locations for services
After presenting the car-sharing company Mobility, Natalie Brandenberg showed step-by-step how her company selects locations for new services (i.e., car sharing). Almost all the factors that influence the decision, such as the population size, other car-sharing services, future infrastructure plans, etc., have a spatial dimension. They can therefore be mapped. Regression can be used to identify the most important predictors of success. The maps produced by Mobility’s GIS department are shared with staff in other departments, who then check the potential locations and take the project further.

EBP: Applications of location intelligence and data science
Tiziana Speckert from EBP presented applications from the broad business field of her company. Applications of location intelligence and data science ranged from mobility and infrastructure to the environment, with a focus on topics relevant to achieving the SDGs. Examples included a modern web GIS and iPad application for monitoring and clearing vegetation along railway lines or a location and rollout planning for e-mobility charging stations.

Zurich: Digital twins for the city of Zurich
Nicole Kesselring from the City of Zurich’s Urban Planning Office presented Zürich 4D, the city’s digital twin. She first explained how the digital twin was created, e.g. which data and which applications were used. After a short film about the functions of Zürich 4D, including the timeline, the pedestrian mode or the shade analysis. The timeline goes back to 3000 BC and is based on a historical digital twin. Since there is less information about older eras, the historical digital twin was built differently, incorporating other disciplines such as archaeology. The final goal is to show the city in six different time states, so far completed are 3000 BC and 1800.

Wildnispark Zürich: Collaboration with ArcGIS tools
After a short break with coffee and cake, Ronald Schmidt presented the different ArcGIS tools used by the Wildnispark Zürich – in an ArcGIS StoryMap. He showed how, for example ArcGIS Field Maps are used to report an obstacle and its location, e.g. a fallen tree blocking a path or an empty battery in the visitor counter station, create a task and assign it to the responsible Wildnispark employee. The responsible person then fixes the problem and marks the tasks as completed. ArcGIS tools are not only used for collaboration but also communication with the public, e.g. if a road has to be closed for maintenance work or after a storm.

Bruno Manser Fonds: Mapping a Rainforest
Tobias Heini took us to Malaysia and showed us how the Bruno Manser Fonds supports various ethnic groups in collecting names of objects such as rivers, mountains, rice fields, but also spiritual places and cemeteries. The places are usually mapped by hand on a paper map and later digitised in the field with the help of a GPS. However, Tobias also showed how challenging mapping can be without a reliable internet connection. The collected data are validated by the community and at regional meetings. The project aims to document the culture of the indigenous people of Sarawak, to prove land rights claims and to provide maps to the communities.