Laban Karanja: “GIS is already becoming a darling of the business world..”

Laban Karanja
Hi! My name is Laban Karanja - currently working as a Solutions Engineer with Esri Eastern Africa. Sounds like a grand title but it basically means that my job is to craft ArcGIS - based solutions for people/organizations who need them. I wasn't always into GIS (actually most of the people I work with would tell you I'm more into the 'IS' part of it than I am the 'G') - I stumbled onto it when I applied for a job at the company I currently work for. I studied Telecommunication Engineering at JKUAT many moons ago but never managed to join that sector. GIS was a bit more welcoming and I'm glad that I ended up here. Hobbies? I'm all about sleep, watching and listening to audio interviews and reading articles about the music business.


You can find Laban on Twitter @sowanch  also

Qn: Can you talk a little bit about ArcGIS’s offerings for developers? The SDKs and APIs and why developers should pay attention to them? How can they transform a developers productivity?

Ans: Gladly. As with all proprietary software, ArcGIS tends to get a bad rep with the developer community. Though in the past it may have been deservedly so, it would be wrong to assume that this is the case now. Esri now offers a very comprehensive developer program ( that helps developers create and manage apps that include mapping, visualization, analysis, and more for any industry and any device – starting with the Essential package which is ‘essentially’ every available development SDK and API for free ( This also includes a free development Account on ArcGIS Online – Esri’s WebGIS gateway. Not sure how to use these SDKs or APIs? Head over to Esri’s Github page  to get Proof of concept developer code and samples that can help one be successful with all ArcGIS developer products such as APIs for JavaScript and Python as wells as SDKs for .NET, Java, Android, iOS, macOS and Qt.
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Qn: ArcGIS Python API is a new thing. What’s this all about?

Ans: With the introduction of Web GIS, the ArcGIS platform is now available in a wide variety of environments and devices because it exposes much of its functionality through web services. The ArcGIS Python API is Python based programming interface to your Web GIS, which could be an instance of ArcGIS Online or an enterprise implementation of ArcGIS (an ArcGIS Server fronted with a Portal for ArcGIS).
Not only does the API cater to current Python users – who utilize its scripting capabilities for data crunching or map design – the API also allows for GIS visualization and analysis, spatial data/content management as well as organization administration. The ArcGIS Python API automates, controls, drives and is powered by your Web GIS. More on this topic can be found here:

Qn: What are some interesting projects you’ve worked on?
Ans: I’ve been privileged to work on a few quite a few GIS projects – most of which have been enterprise GIS installations for both commercial and government entities. I’ve also been fortunate to work on IR Mapper – an interactive map for visualizing data from insecticide susceptibility and resistance mechanisms tests.

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Qn: What is the place of GIS developers in the tech transformation that is happening now, the proliferation of IoT, Big Data and Machine Learning? How can devs keep their skills abreast with these new concepts?

Ans: I think it is an exciting time to be a GIS developer with all the advancements that are taking place. I believe the GIS developer is uniquely positioned to take advantage of these changes to further his/her work, knowledge and experience. GIS is already becoming a darling of the business world due to how it factors in location into business processes and allows visualization for quick understanding.

With Big Data in its corner, it will soon be an essential component in helping businesses understand clientele, and help them manage and ensure a healthy community.

GIS developers can keep their skills abreast with this by reading widely and experimenting with all the new technology they can get their hands on. With the Internet around, that should never be a problem for an earnest seeker.

Qn: Esri ArcGIS, how is it being transformed to accommodate the new technology concepts; IoT, Big Data and Machine Learning for instance. Is Esri rolling out platforms and tools to work with these?

An: This may sound like a shameless plug – but I doubt that any GIS platform is as prepared for ig data analytics and IoT ArcGIS is. With it’s new release (10.5), it has added new Enterprise capabilities that handle Big Data and Analytics through roles such as GeoAnalytics Server and real time data streams through GeoEvent Server. Get hip to how this is happening by reading this article:

Qn: What are some of the geospatial technology trends that you think we’ll be seeing more of in 2017?
Ans: GIS is going to become a widely sought after tool in the Business Intelligence space. Every major company is going to include a map viewer of sorts in their package.

Big Data will be a big part of the geo industry in 2017 – if only to help create big understanding. This will also happen in the non core GIS industries such as Telcos and Oil companies.

Finally, I think Web GIS or Location as a service is going to blow up big time. Capabilities allowing distributed processing will allow the most complex GIS tasks to be used on any device.