Africa Local Chapter
The OSGeo Africa Local Chapter, which started out as a mailing list in 2005 after AfricaGIS2005, is now in the formal establishment process as per Local_Chapter_Guidelines after a successful FOSS4G 2008 in Cape Town. As of 31 March 2010 this mailing list has 235 members. the majority of these are from South Africa but there are substantial numbers from across Africa and several from around the world.
You'll find lively discussion from members across Africa covering technical issues, organising meetings, advocacy, training, work opportunities and more.
The OSGeo Africa Chapter acts as a representative body and a forum for any issue relating to Free and Open Source GIS. By calling ourselves the Africa Chapter we mean to be inclusive to anyone who identifies with Africa. As countries or linguistic groups within Africa generate enough momentum to form their own local chapters, these will emerge and will coexist alongside or under the umbrella of the Africa Chapter. Since most African countries have arbitrary colonial boundaries in any case why perpetuate them in the borderless world of OSGeo? Perhaps the sub-groupings that make most sense are predominant linguistic groups such as Swahili, Arabic, English, French and Portuguese. As these do emerge, the current 'Africa' Local Chapter could morph into the 'Africa English Chapter' or the 'Southern Africa Chapter'.
Our objectives are to:
- Develop skills
- Advocate FOSS GIS
- Build community
They are spelt out in our Roadmap below.
A RoadMap for OSGeo Africa
What is needed
Some common refrains from amongst the people Tim spoke to at FOSS4G2008:
- we don't know what FOSS GIS products exist
- how do we choose between two or more competing FOSS GIS products that do the same thing
- how can we get training in FOSS GIS
- how do we migrate our existing set up to FOSS GIS
- how can we get (PAID and otherwise) support for FOSS GIS
- where can we get free data
There were also some heartwarming success stories of people who have already adopted FOSS in their businesses and municiplities etc. For me when I review the above laundry list of concerns and questions it becomes very obvious that we need to become organised.
We already have a 'home' with GISSA so we do not need to form a new association. At the moment that consists of turning the extant GISSA FOSS SIG (Special Interest Group) into the OSGeo Africa Local Chapter, with a seat on the GISSA National Council and access to the GISSA website, meetings and other resources. If the Chapter decides to set up an independent non-profit organisation, such as a Section 21 Company in South Africa, we are quite open to doing that in due course. But the link with GISSA enables us to move fast as we plan AFOSSGISS 2010.
I would like to take the initiative to propose that we form a 5 person working group to start to put things in place. Since I am proposing this, I obviously volunteer to be one of the members and I call on others on this list or beyond to answer this call to arms. The idea of the 5 person working group will be to bootstrap ourselves into an effective organisation which can make its presence felt both locally and beyond the shores of Africa. I also realise that this proposal may not be perfect so consider it a start that we can build on rather than a plan that has to be cast in stone. The main idea will be that each working group member will try to form a small team, typically of 5 members including the team member. One of these members would also double as official OSGeo liaison officer. Here follows a proposal for a team that will enable us to get organised and effective.
People don't know they have FOSS alternatives - we need to make them aware - including by making press releases, press materials, attending industry events, making contact with academic, municipal and state bodies and letting them know we exist and want to collaborate.
Volunteer: Tim Sutton <tim at linfiniti.com>
We need to get FOSS GIS into schools, and provide open (e.g. creative commons) curricula. In the case of South Africa the National Curriculum Statement on Geography provides some (albeit vague) guidelines on how GIS should be included in the school curriculum (there is a link to this document on the GISSA website: School GIS).
- We need to train people to use FOSS GIS.
- First we need to train create a tier of experts / power users, second they need to train people in their local areas.
- We need to start this ""soon"".
- We need to do this on a free / cost recovery basis.
- We need to establish suitable venues in each regional center that can be used for training.
- We need to build up sets of Free (unencumbered) data that can be used by anyone
- We need to build up training materials that can be used to ease the process of training people.
Professional Support Leader:
We need to create a body of professionals who can provide on the ground support - there is a huge business opportunity here - we need to take advantage. We will call this the OSGeo Africa Professional Association (or something along those lines). The group will among other things provide a directory of FOSS support and solution providers (along with their location). The group will act as an advisory body to organisations wishing to deploy FOSS GIS. We are floating the idea of forming a Cooperative to organise ourselves professionally See under 'Cooperatives development' in the left panel of http://www.dti.gov.za/.
If you or your organisation provide any type of professional service already, get your details onto the OSGeo Service Provider Directory as a start.
Volunteer: Brendon Wolff-Piggott <brendon AT integratedgeodata.co.za>
We need to build a community - this means building up a responsive, friendly mailing list. We also need to curate our area on the OSGeo wiki and build up other online resources that will allow new and established members in the OSGeo AFRICA community to find up to date relevant and helpful information to address their needs.
Volunteer: Gavin Fleming (also proposed as official OSGeo liaison representative)
Skills development strategy
I'm thinking that since we are starting pretty much from ground zero we need to structure things in a 'knowledge ladder':
4 - Becoming a FOSSGIS developer 3 - Becoming a FOSSGIS Expert 2 - Becoming a FOSSGIS User 1 - FOSSGIS Familiarisation
My suggestion is that we do a first round of workshops which basically introduce a FOSSGIS software stack to users so the can understand what can be achieved with FOSSGIS. Following that we can continue with a next round where we start building skills in particular products e.g. a day training on postgis, followed by a day on QGIS etc etc. Of course we need not expect everyone to reach level 4. although it is my hope that we can build a caucus of FOSSGIS developers in Africa so that we can play a role in shaping the future of FOSSGIS and also building up our own local skills.
The workshops can be repeated as demand dictates. Currently there is interest in Jhb, Cape Town, and now with your email Durbs. I thing the folks in East London may be interested too. It would be great if we can establish regional user groups that can eventually do the local organisation for workshops and then presenters can visit different regions and not have to manage all the arrangements solo. But to start lets aim to do 3 or 4 introductory workshops and work on from there. Workshops would be carried out at no charge for as long as we can sustain it - and we could look at ways to raise funds in order to make it sustainable - possible the likes of SITA etc could help out since what we doing would very much further the goals of skills development within FOSSGIS in South Africa. We should also look at how we can extend these activites further afield since other African countries can equally benifit.
Everyone can be a role player - this list is just a way to keep track of the various people involved - feel free to add yourself!
|Tim Sutton||tim at linfiniti.com||Jhb, will travel||linfiniti consulting ( http://linfiniti.com )|
|Stefaan Dondeyne||stefaan_dondeyne at yahoo.co.uk||Mozambique?||Teaching QGIS in Mozambique|
|Brendon Wolff-Piggott||brendon at integratedgeodata.co.za||Pretoria, will travel||integrated geodata solutions|
|Gavin Fleming||gavinjfleming at gmail.com||Paarl, Western Cape||SAEON|
|Jean-Francis AHANDA||jeanfrancisahanda at opensolutions-cameroun.com||Yaounde,Cameroon||Open Solutions Cameroun|||
|Graeme McFerren||graeme dot mcferren at gmail dot com||Jhb/Pretoria||GIS Researcher, Meraka||Southern Tip blog|
|29 November 2008||Johannesburg||Demo & Workshop covering PostGIS, GeoServer, uDig, QGIS||Programme Here||Our first local community event!|
|27 June 2009||Johannesburg||Introduction to QGIS||Programme Here||Our second local community event!|
|13-17 July 2009||Cape Town||IGARSS 2009||IGARSS_2009||We put up the OsGeo banner and handed out brochures|
|14 August 2010||Bridge House School, Franschhoek||QGIS day||details here||Our first OSGeo event in the Western Cape since FOSS4G 2008!|
|27-29 September 2010||Midrand, Gauteng, South Africa||AFOSSGIS 2010||http://afossgis.org/||Our first large-scale Local Chapter meeting|
OSGeo wiki has a comprehensive list of Service Providers offering support services around FOSS GIS software. For you convenience, here are quick links to African providers.