You may have heard about free and open source software – we’ve talked about it a lot at Gaia, and have practically built the business off of it. There’s a whole suite of open source software which serves the geospatial community, bringing powerful mapping and database tools to the world at the most affordable price point possible – free – which empowers people far and wide regardless of financial or social status.
To celebrate this software and bring the spatial community together, an annual conference is held known as FOSS4G, or Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial. This year Gaia were very proud to both sponsor and facilitate the conference on 12th November. The organising committee consisted of a crack team of volunteers from a range of businesses and educational facilities, who pulled off an incredible two-day event jam-packed with information and hands-on learning.
Things got off to a hairy start when one of our presenters came down with COVID-like symptoms and had to quarantine, but alas, these are the times we live in. The presentations that weren’t foiled by COVID were filmed and are available here on the FOSS4G SotM Oceania YouTube channel.
This year’s keynote presenters gave us a lot of food for thought: Russell Keith-Magee treated us to an energetic and enlightening introduction to the world of contributing to open source software. The audience were captivated and hopefully a few were inspired by his note that you don’t need to be able to code in order to contribute. Then Femina Metcalfe and Helen Ensikat unveiled the long journey to bringing open source software to the local government sector in Western Australia, revealing incredible foresight, persistence and tenacity.
A series of presentations and 5 minute lightning talks, interspersed with top-notch catering from Joey Zaza’s, made for an enjoyable and educational event. We learnt about how open source spatial software is being used in the private, government and education sectors; we were shown how to collect spatial data in the field using the free QField mobile app; and we were treated to a number of fascinating scientific studies which were undertaken utilising free and open source software.
A personal highlight for me was our own committee member John Bryant experiencing some technical difficulties at the start of his 5 minute lightning talk about new features in QGIS, and having to speed through the rest of it. He made it with seconds to spare, and got a cheer from the audience.
What I love most about this particular conference is the ability to network and connect – I really feel it’s the ethos of open source that facilitates the desire to share your ideas, learnings and data with the community. This was such a welcome change from conferences which are geared around sales pitches and profit.
The organising committee would like to extend a massive thank you to the sponsors of the event, without which we couldn’t hold it. These amazing companies are fostering the availability of powerful software tools to the world and the removal of socio-economic boundaries.
Special thanks to our venue sponsor FLUX, who allowed us to fill their terrific Basement venue with raucous nerdery for the day.
And of course an enormous kudos to the organising committee, who put in months of effort to make the event happen (big shout out to John Bryant and Maia Williams).
If you’d like to know more about FOSS4G, check out their website. If you’re interested in getting involved in the event for next year, free to get in touch via email, or start a conversation with us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.