FOSS4G comes to the Philippines

I announced last month the upcoming FOSS4G workshops as a pre-conference activity of PhilGEOS 2012.

This happened last week and we are very happy with the outcome of the event. Over 60 people participated in the workshops and lightning talks. We also had a chance to present the OSGeo Live Project in the technical session of main conference as well as showcase OSGeo and OpenStreetMap Philippines in the exhibition booth.

I’m sharing with you here, some of the slides I used in introducing the FOSS4G workshops during the opening of the event.

This is our very first Free and Open Source Software for Geoinformatics (FOSS4G) event here in the Philippines. I would like thank the organizers of PhilGEOS 2012 through the University of Philippines Department of Geodetic Engineering for co-organizing the event with OSGeo-Philippines. We will have a series of workshops and talks today showcasing several free and open source geospatial applications. I hope that through the workshops, you will be able to see and experience the wealth of FOSS4G tools available to you and your organizations.

Just to clarify, our event today does not intend to force you to completely dump and replace your existing tools and workflows. We know that as geospatial users, you have acquired a wealth of tools and workflows for your daily geo-tasks. Instead, this event is an invitation.

An invitation to look at options. FOSS4G offers several alternatives that is comparable to many proprietary tools. We want you to look at these options. You are invited to experiment with these tools. Evaluate the opportunities and ways to integrate them in your existing processes. And later, expand the use within your existing organization (slide keywords adopted from Paul Ramsey’s talk). Using FOSS4G technologies do not have to be disruptive within your institution. You can implement an incremental approach to adoption depending on your specific use cases.

This also an invitation for you to become part of the larger ecosystem in the FOSS4G world. The workshops today are just tasters to what FOSS4G offers at zero capital cost. By using a small subset of the tools, you become part of this ecosystem and community and we hope you can further explore other options that FOSS4G technology provides.

This is also an invitation for you to explore without the restrictions of a single operating system. Many FOSS4G technologies are available in your preferred OSes. You do not need to be using just a single operating system. For example, QGIS is available in almost all operating systems in use today. The same can be said in most FOSS4G tools.

Finally, by using FOSS4G technologies, you can contribute to make it even better. We encourage you to use and report to the FOSS4G developers impressions, bugs and enhancements that can improve your use of any FOSS4G software. This is a way for us to give back and improve our experience in the use of the applications.

From hereon, I discussed workshop schedules and room assignments. More details about the topics in the OSGeo wiki.

A few of my personal impressions after the event.

  • QGIS is the most popular FOSS4G desktop app here. Most of the participant’s initial exposure with FOSS4G was through Quantum GIS. I am very impressed at the wide adoption of QGIS in universities, local and regional government agencies, non-government organizations and even in some commercial organizations. QGIS indeed have come a long way since I started using it.
  • There is a good number of local FOSS4G “experts” that can support the needs of PH users. This is the first time I met in person several local developers that is already doing custom development using the FOSS4G stack. Some do webmapping, while others are improving usability of certain desktop applications and others are building custom applications base on open data (OpenStreetMap). It is unfortunate that many are not getting due recognition and visibility in the local geospatial community (or maybe I’m just out of touch with the recent local developments). This pool of local developers will be a great resource to the expanding needs of local users. Supporting and cultivating the growth of the Philippine-based developer community is part of OSGeo-PH’s mission. Maybe one future activity of the local chapter are events that focuses on supporting the local developers and link them up to the international OSGeo projects?
  • Almost everyone knows about OpenStreetMap and the amazing growth of open, community-led, grassroots geodata movement. A lot of people I talked to (and those who visited our exhibit booth) have interacted in some ways with OSM (either as a data user, a contributor or have simply heard about it). This is a very positive news for the local OSM community, we hope this interest will translate into more contributions and expansion of data coverage in the county.
  • Organizing this event requires a lot of work. However, the dedication of a small pool volunteers made this event very successful. We do have a few blunders along the way, but in the end, we were able to pull it off. We are very fortunate to have UP’s Department of Geodetic Engineering as an event partner. They were able to mobilize needed resources to run the event smoothly.

Needless to say, I am very happy with the outcome and I hope we can organize more local events like this in the future.

Rant: This event proved something else. Oftentimes, when I asked people if they can help organize similar events, discussion will revolve around where do we get sponsors; it’s difficult to get volunteers; we have no funds for food, venue, schwags, etc. In the end, we are so overwhelmed with the necessary preparations, discussion will die down and initial plans were not followed through. Sure, careful planning, funds and more people can make an event successful, but sometimes you JFDI and it will turn out just fine. ;-)

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