Skip to main content

FOSS4G 2018 in Dar Es Salaam

Last month I spent a week in Dar Es Salaam at FOSS4G 2018, incorporating the HOT (Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team) Summit. It was one of an increasing number of occasions where I find my Astun Technology and MapAction roles overlapping, and made more enjoyable by being able to spend some of the time with colleagues from both organisations.

This was my fourth FOSS4G, and was a very different experience to the first three. Tanzania is the second African country to have hosted FOSS4G after South Africa, and so nationals of African countries made up a significant proportion of the delegates, most of whom, judging from those I spoke to, were attending for the first time. Their travel experiences were also a little different to mine - one delegate told me she had travelled for two days on a bus from northern Tanzania with no overnight stop, putting into perspective gripes from those of us flying in about stopovers and connections. The age and gender demographic was also significantly different - it was refreshing to see so many young people, and so many women among the delegates, and also to see this reflected in the choice of keynote speakers, all of whom were women. This report from a delegate from Lesotho, partly funded by the fantastic FOSS4G Travel Grant programme, gives a flavour of the kind of impact the conference had. Of course 'the usual suspects' were also there in force - they are the backbone of FOSS4G and it's always good to see, and listen to, the familiar faces who are behind many of the applications we use every day.

There was a strong emphasis on humanitarian issues, particularly on the HOT track. My MapAction colleague Steve Penson covers this well in an excellent blog post on some of the work HOT is doing in Tanzania - it's pragmatic, large-scale, and genuinely innovative, involving hundreds of communities and university students in Dar Es Salaam.

Other than that, a few things caught my eye/ear: 
  • A new version of QField, a version of QGIS optimised for use on Android tablets and particularly for field data collection, is coming soon, with better synchronisation with a QGIS project (using a plugin), improved forms, and integration with mobile device sensors. QField is largely developed by, and they would welcome contributions of any kind.
  • Coming at field data collection from the other direction (and maybe meeting in the middle?) is continuing development of ODK (OpenDataKit) and its branded version KoBo Toolbox, the 'go to' data collection app in the humanitarian world. The geo capabilities of ODK in particular are developing fast, improving the ability of users to collect accurate and relevant location data in the field.
  • A team from Heidelberg University gave a great presentation on OpenRouteService, which uses (of course) OpenStreetMap as the basis for a routing UI and a series of APIs. It's still relatively new, but it gave me a pretty good bike route from my house into Bristol, and the APIs include isochrones and geocoding, so it's one to watch.
  • Drones were everywhere, including in Zanzibar where the entire island has been captured by fixed-wing drones using football pitches as airstrips, and and the associated among the tools on show.
With over 1,000 delegates, FOSS4G is going from strength to strength, and there's no doubt that the enthusiasm of Mark Iliffe and the Dar Es Salaam LOC is going to be carried forward by Vasile Crăciunescu and the Romanian team for FOSS4G 2019 in Bucharest - the website is up, the venues are booked, all that remains is for you to be there!


Popular posts from this blog

Astun Conference 2018

In late September and October Astun hosted two regional conferences in Bristol and Leeds. In the current environment it isn’t easy to persuade people in Local and Central Government to take a day out of their schedules and travel to to a conference, so getting over 70 delegates over the two days was a strong indication of the value that Astun brings to its clients. After a brief welcome from Steven Feldman (Bristol) or Dan Ormsby (Leeds) Mike Saunt, Astun’s founder and MD, gave a keynote entitled “Much ado about Mapping” Mike talked about Astun as a passionate company, passionate about geo, passionate about open, passionate about the cloud and fanatical about support. He ran through the way Astun’s offer had evolved in the last year with new features, an improved user experience, simplified administration, more automation of cloud deployment and most importantly major investments in testing, quality enhancement and reducing technical debt. Then Mike moved on to the direction of travel for…

Making home working work!

I was chatting to a personal acquaintance recently about work and we got on to the subject of home working. The organisation she worked for was going through a period of change and they were planning on moving some of their office staff to home working on a permanent basis. She was after my views on how we manage to make that work effectively at Astun. This blog, which is very much a manager's perspective, is what I told her!

Before we get on to to the two key themes of this blog - the Technical and Cultural - a quick bit about Astun first! 1. Astun's circumstances We employ around 21 people, of which 6 or so work from an office in Epsom, and the rest work from home on a permanent basis. From my home in Bristol, I line manage 13 of those people, 3 of which are office based, the rest primarily work in the UK, as far north as Tyneside & Lancaster and as far south as Southampton. I have one member of the team who is based in Seville in Spain.
2. Technical Use of technology is k…

Wychavon District, Malvern Hills District, and Worcester City councils sponsor improvements to the Gemini metadata plugin for Geonetwork

Astun have been working with Wychavon District, Malvern Hills District and Worcester City councils on some improvements to the Gemini 2.2 Metadata Plugin for Geonetwork.

The councils approached us at one of our User Group events in 2018 for some assistance with their joint data and metadata publishing workflow. In this workflow, data is published as WMS and WFS using Geoserver. Metadata in the WMS and WFS responses are harvested by Geonetwork to create metadata records, which are then published to The goal was to create fully valid Gemini 2.2 metadata directly from Geoserver, without the need for editing the records in Geonetwork. We worked with the councils to establish that the Geoserver INSPIRE plugin and built-in metadata tools met most of that requirement, but that some elements were either incorrectly added or missing entirely when the metadata was harvested into Geonetwork.

Astun have enhanced the Gemini 2.2 metadata plugin for Geonetwork to improve it's WMS an…