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FAQ: Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis with Free ArcGIS Hub Resources

How do I mobilize spatial data fast to help my organization communicate about our ongoing COVID-19 response efforts? What free tools is Esri Canada providing to help? How do I jumpstart my response today? In this blog post, you’ll find the answers to these and related questions to help you deploy your response now.

The COVID-19 crisis is continuing to evolve. GIS departments and professionals can play a powerful role in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus thanks to their ability to use spatial information to tell stories. But what’s the best way of sharing that information?

Esri Canada is committed to helping organizations respond to COVID-19 quickly and affordably, to reduce the risk to all of us. Our free webinar details tools and resources that you can use—many of which are free—to help communicate your response efforts to a wider audience.

What is Esri Canada’s COVID-19 Hub?

Esri Canada’s COVID-19 Hub is a resource collection, freely available to the public, built using Esri’s ArcGIS Hub. The COVID-19 Hub combines data from Canada with information about the global community to create a single Canada-focused COVID-19 status tracker.

With Esri Canada's free resources, you can make an online hub like the COVID-19 Canada hub shown above to get the message out fast about how your organization is responding to this ever-evolving crisis.

Looks great. How can I get the tools to make something similar?

We’re here for you: dealing with this unprecedented pandemic is our top priority, whether you’re an existing customer or not.

If you don’t have ArcGIS Online, you can get access to ArcGIS Online—including ArcGIS Hub Basic, the tool we used to develop the COVID-19 Hub—through Esri’s DRP (Disaster Response Program). The DRP is a way to obtain Esri technology at no cost for a six-month period to help you get through difficult times.

If you’re already an Esri Canada customer, you can still use the DRP to get access to additional technology. If there are Esri tools that you aren’t using yet that would help your organization manage your pandemic response in the next 6 months, we still recommend obtaining these solutions through the DRP so that you can get to work fast. For example, if you need additional fieldworker user types for an existing Enterprise deployment or need additional seats for ArcGIS Pro, use the DRP.

Once you’re on the DRP website, click on “Request Assistance” in the top right corner and fill out the form to get your complimentary six-month subscription to ArcGIS Online with Hub Basic.

If my organization already has access to ArcGIS Online and Hub, how do I start building applications to communicate within my organization and with the public?

We’ve set up several tools in ArcGIS Online to help organizations quickly jump-start their communications during the pandemic. For existing ArcGIS Online customers, you have everything you need at your disposal within the ArcGIS Online platform, including the ArcGIS Hub Coronavirus Response Template.

Turning this template on within Hub Basic is the quickest way to build tools—and as many sites as you need—to help you communicate with and gather case data from your community. For detailed instructions on how to get going, view our free webinar.

Speed is essential in a developing crisis. The Coronavirus Response Template grants you access to charts, graphs and other tools that you can use to quickly and easily build visualizations and apps.

The template is plugged into global information sources and comes pre-populated with key information, including public health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you have your own public health guidelines, you can easily replace what’s already in the template with your own assets.

How do I make the Coronavirus Response Template work with my organization’s dataset?

To use the Coronavirus Response Template to the fullest of its abilities and communicate with your people about reported cases or important locations (like pharmacies, grocery stores and hospitals), you’ll need data and maps. Many different data sources are available, including:

  • The Coronavirus Response Solution Toolkit, which Esri has made available through the ArcGIS Solutions for Local Government Initiative. Some data layers—like public places, hospitals, education facilities and case reports—are already available through the toolkit. You can start with these and modify the dataset templates as needed.
  • The ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World. We’ve curated a set of data layers for you within the Living Atlas that are relevant to the pandemic. While on the Living Atlas search site, click on “Canada” in the left-hand menu to filter for available Canadian content. Thousands of layers are available, including the OpenStreetMap Amenities Layer, which lists amenities and points of interest like hospitals, in communities across Canada.

On the Living Atlas website, filter by “Canada” to view the ready-to-use data layers that Esri Canada has provided for customers to use. Combine these layers with your own data to provide your community with the information they need to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

  • ArcGIS Online. Additional datasets are available within ArcGIS Online. Use the Search bar at the top of the screen to look for relevant content within your organization. Unclick the “Only search in…” toggle in the left-hand menu to search the broader ArcGIS Online ecosystem for datasets not housed within your organization. These include the online feature datasets that form the basis for the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus dashboard.

ArcGIS Online hosts a wealth of existing datasets that you can layer with your own to hit the ground running.

How do I customize the Coronavirus Response Template?

The Coronavirus Response Template works with Hub Basic, creating a one-stop shop for organizations looking to communicate with the public about COVID-19. Hub Basic contains an easy-to-use website builder, which can be used with the Coronavirus Response Template to build a site with as many related pages as you need. Simply open the Layout menu, drag and drop each card or widget into the page, and format the elements as needed.

In general, a page built using Hub Basic is a great way to show your stakeholders how your organization is responding to the pandemic through maps, galleries, statistics and other authoritative information.

What resources are available for local governments?

Make use of the ready-to-use templates and applications for local government public health organizations in our Coronavirus Response Solution Toolkit, available through our ArcGIS Solutions for Local Government program. The program includes pre-made applications that can help you mobilize your dataset. These applications include a Community Impact Dashboard to help your public health staff monitor coronavirus cases, as well as a Case Reporter application that public health staff can use to tabulate coronavirus cases in your community.

ArcGIS Solutions for Local Government also grants you access to templates for maps and data layers for use with ArcGIS Pro. They’ll help you turn your data into actionable information.

To use the Coronavirus Response Solution Toolkit for local governments, start by launching the ArcGIS Solutions Deployment Tool for ArcGIS Pro 2.5 from the website. You’ll be able to publish templates and dashboards from inside ArcGIS Pro to your ArcGIS Online organization or to your ArcGIS Enterprise portal.

If you don’t already have the ArcGIS Solutions Deployment Tool, get access to it through the DRP.

What other content can I add to a Hub site to broadcast my organization’s COVID-19 response?

If your datasets are already hooked up with ArcGIS Online, you can quickly and easily create interactive web applications using web maps. You can then add these applications to a Hub site or other website type.

To do this, use Map Viewer in ArcGIS Online. (Given the severity of the current situation, we recommend using the existing version of Map Viewer rather than the beta version to give your stakeholders as stable an experience as possible.) Go to “Share Map” in the top menu and select “Create a Web App”. Use the Operations Dashboard function to get started. Then, add as many interactive features as you need, in whatever combination will work best for your stakeholders.

You can also select “Embed in Website” to get the source code you’ll need to place your web map within an iFrame on your Hub site.

To quickly and easily turn an existing map into a dashboard—like the one on Esri Canada’s COVID-19 Hub—go into the Share Map dialogue and select Create a Web App. Using the Operations Dashboard function, add as many interactions as you need.

How can my organization leverage the resources that are available on Esri Canada’s COVID-19 Hub?

So far, we’ve focused on how organizations can build their own resources using what Esri Canada has available, but if you need to get up and running now, the COVID-19 Hub is freely available for you to use. The COVID-19 Hub includes a map, key summary statistics, charts, resources, insight pages and dashboards in English and in French. Currently, we’re refreshing the dataset—and the resulting visualizations—every 30 minutes.

If you want more control or want to view the items in more granularity, visit the COVID-19 Hub’s Media Resources page. On the Media Resources page, you’ll find embeddable components that you can use on your Hub site. If you’re using ArcGIS Hub Basic, simply create an iFrame using the website builder, then take the URL of your desired component and input it into the URL field. If you’re using another type of site, the complete source code is available. Use it to embed the desired content directly.

What are my next steps?

Esri Canada has helped more than 100 organizations share their COVID-19 data openly to help mitigate the worst of the crisis. We’d like to help you do the same. To view the full webinar and get into a more detailed how-to for some of the items mentioned above, click here. If you’d like more guidance, reach out to your Esri Canada account team or use our contact form.


How to Launch a Coronavirus Response Website Today:

ArcGIS Hub Coronavirus Response Template:

Coronavirus Response Solution Template:

Esri Canada’s COVID-19 Canada Hub:

About the Author

Chris North is the Director of Technology Adoption for Esri Canada. With over 20 years of experience in geomatics, Chris is an accomplished GIS professional who brings an in-depth understanding of enterprise GIS and technology trends to the company. He has a master's degree in GIS from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and an undergraduate degree in geography from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Chris is also a graduate of the Cartography Program at Sir Sandford Fleming College, Ontario. He is the recipient of several industry awards and continues to be involved with many industry groups.

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