I got back last weekend from Cape Town and the Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) conference 2008, easily one of the best conference I have attended recently!
The FOSS4G conference is like no other attracting the most enthusiastic and active delegates who as well as talking about the potential of geospatial technology, also get on and build the tools.
To be fair Google has taken some criticism from the FOSS community for not making some of its user generated content available in its raw form “think geodata source code” rather than maps tiles, and this was a topic debated with some feeling at the conference. I did my best to explain our priorities in our approach to date, and I certainly enjoyed the debate.
The Google team from our Nairobi office ran a workshop on MapMaker which is making great progress in filling in the gaps in mapping Africa, in many countries making mapping publicly available for the first time.
For the moment making this mapping available for free to as many users of Google Maps and potential Google Maps API sites is our priority.
Following my keynote I spent as much time as possible at the Google Booth, and it was great to meet and talk to developers for literally around the world over half of the 500 people at the conference had travelling to South Africa to attend, again and indication of the commitment of the FOSS community to get things done.
The power of the FOSS community is demonstrated both by the almost complete stack of open source tools which can be used to build almost any scale of GIS system, and by the projects the community is involved in; projects such as Ushahidi which uses a combination of Free and Open Source tools to monitor human rights violations in Africa.
I spent Friday morning following the conference at Trafalgar High School in Cape Towns infamous District 6 running a workshop for teachers on using Google Earth for GIS education at the same time other delegates were running similar courses using other tools.
If like me you are becoming a little tired of the introspection of the traditional and proprietary GIS world, check out OSGeo the organisation supporting many FOSS4G projects, and start saving for your air ticket to attend FOSS4G 2009 in Sydney… you won’t regret it.
Written and submitted from the Google Office, London.