Digital mapping may aid NI cross-community relations

Schools project presented at conference in San Diego, becoming first schools from outside US to take to the stage

Digital mapping software could help improve cross-community relations in a Co Armagh town, with a group of school children undertaking a project that explored the sectarian divisions in the community.

The students from Lurgan College, St Ronan's College and Lurgan Junior High School presented their project at the Esri International User Conference conference in San Diego, becoming the first schools from outside the US to take to the stage.

The Lurgan Shared Education project mapped and analysed sectarian divisions in the community, identifying several locations that some students either never visited or in which they felt uncomfortable and unsafe.

Students recorded the data through mobile apps and then used Esri Ireland’s ArcGIS online mapping platform to analyse the data. The findings were also shared with the PSNI, local government representatives and community organisations.


Three students, three teachers and a member of the PSNI travelled to San Diego for the event. The week-long Esri International User Conference is the world’s largest Geographic Information Systems (GIS) conference, bringing together 19,000 users, experts, scientists, educators and decision makers from 128 countries.

"This cross-community initiative gave students a platform to put forward suggestions to make Lurgan a more inclusive place. It has made a real difference in Lurgan with stakeholder groups in the community acting on findings from the survey," said Joanne McLaughlin, ArcGIS for Schools business sponsor, Esri Ireland.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist