Reflections on FOSS4G Seoul 2015

October 21, 2015

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FOSS4G Seoul 2015 may have ended weeks ago, but pictures, tweets and social media posts are still popping up. It's no wonder — as members of the FOSS4G community, it was difficult to bid farewell to those who are not only colleagues or members of the same software project and committees, but also, and above all, friends and companions.

The theme of FOSS4G Seoul 2015, "Toward Diversity, FOSS4G Big Bang from Seoul," was accomplished in its full meaning and spirit, with 562 attendees from 48 different countries participating: 63 percent were from Asia, 18 percent from Europe, 11 percent from North America, 5 percent from Africa, 2 percent from Oceania, 1 percent from the Middle East and 1 percent from South America.

The long history of FOSS4G events began with the 2004 FOSS/GRASS Users Conference in Bangkok, where leaders from the GRASS GIS and MapServer communities got together and planned a joint conference encompassing a broader community — a sort of a “meeting of tribes”. Subsequently, the 2006 FOSS4G international conference was held in Lausanne, Switzerland. The conference has grown to be a major international event over the last decade. In 2015, FOSS4G came back to Asia with this great event in Seoul.

The registration desk was buzzing with activity as it opened at 8:30 a.m. on September 14, 2015, as participants picked up their registration kits — and what a wonderful registration kit it was: a great conference t-shirt with the Gangnido World Map published six centuries before FOSS4G came into being, a 32 GB USB/OTG memory stick with a full range of FOSS4G software packed into the OSGeo-Live Virtual Machine, a wonderful travel guide to Seoul, a super convenient MICE card for use in public transportation and convenience stores, and also a compact and informative conference program — all that we needed to get started with the exiting week ahead. The friendly feeling and excitement of learning new things, catching up with old friends and getting to know new ones could be felt in the air.

Two days of workshops preceded the conference; in total, 21 workshop sessions were attended by more than 350 people. Workshops were half or full-day hands-on experiences with participants following along with instructors. They were run by experienced members of the FOSS4G community, and, in many cases, by the actual developers of the software. As such, they were fantastic opportunities to learn new skills or take the first steps into the world of FOSS4G. There was too much content for us to recap everything, but among the most fascinating and novel was “Build a Drone and OpenDroneMap,” in which participants learned how to build their own drones.

After two days of workshop sessions, the main conference commenced on September 16. Opening remarks, made by the most affable Sanghee Shin, chairperson of FOSS4G-2015, were followed by the welcome address by Sangki Hong, co-chairperson of FOSS4G-2015. Jeff McKenna,president of OSGeo, delivered his welcome address in his usual eloquent style. A video presentation of the Congratulatory Remarks by the Honorable Mayor of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, Mr. Woo Soon Park followed. Venkatesh Raghavan, general chair of the FOSS4G 2015 Academic Track Committee then presented the first Lightning Talk, entitled “Geo4All: Open Education using FOSS4G.” The rest of the conference included eight keynote speeches from government, industry, academia and non-governmental organizations, as well as special and general sessions.

The opening session began with an insightful keynote by Byungnam Choe, president of Korea National Geographic Information Institute, who spoke about the NGII’s vision towards openness and international cooperation. This was followed by an impressive talk by Kyoung-Soo Eom, chief of United Nations Geospatial Information Section, who discussed how GRASS GIS inspired him to begin a career as a GIS specialist. The keen interest in, and commitment to, OSGeo and FOSS4G by United Nations agencies resulted in the organization of a full day U.N. Special Session entitled “Open Source GIS in United Nations and Developing Countries” on September 16.

Other luminaries of the FOSS4G community provided keynote addresses in the Grand Ball Room and kept the audience's rapt attention, speaking of their vision, experiences and perspectives for the future. These keynote speeches were:

  • "Where do we go from here? The Next 10 Years of Open Source Geospatial"(Speaker: Paul Ramsey)
  • "What Lasts: The Sustainability of Open Source for Tomorrow" (Speaker: Alyssa Wright )
  • "Open Data, Open Standards, and Open/Proprietary Technologies" (Speaker: Kuo-Yu Chuang)
  • "QGIS - From a Geodata Viewer to a GIS Platform" (Speaker: Marco Hugentobler )
  • "Citizen Science, VGI, Geo-CrowdSourcing, Big Geo-Data: How They Matter to the FOSS4G Community" (Speaker: Maria Antonia Brovelli)
  • "Global Vision: The Open Source Geospatial Foundation" (Speaker: Jeff McKenna)

The General Track consisted of 39 sessions, for a total of 174 high level talks covering a range of topics related to FOSS4G, open data and open standards. The Academic Track provided a strong basis for collaboration among educators, researchers, developers, users and practitioners carrying out capacity building and R&D activities with or on FOSS4G technologies. The Academic Track was comprised of 31 presentations in nine oral sessions and 24 poster sessions.

The 473-page FOSS4G Seoul 2015 Proceedings report includes the full text of each Academic Track presentation. It is available for download on the conference website.

The Awards Committee was in charge of selecting the winners of the four Student Awards:

  • The OSGeo Best Oral Presentation Student Award went to Hailin Kim from the Hankuk Academy of Foreign Studies, Republic of Korea, for the presentation entitled "Analysis of Spatial Density Utilizing the Big Data of Floating Population of Seoul City."
  • The OSGeo Best Poster Presentation Award was presented to Kwangseob Kim  of Hansung University, Hanseam Park, and Kiwon Lee, Republic of Korea, for their work, "Mobile Application of Open Source Stack to Geo-based Data Visualization on E-Government Web Framework."
  • The FOSS4G Seoul Best Oral Presentation Student Award was presented to Thejaka Mahaulpatha from the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology, and Pasindu Chandrasekara, Dananjaya Thathsara, Irendra Koswatta and Nimalika Fernando, of Sri Lanka for "Landmark Based Path Planning and Linear Path Generation for Mobile Map Applications."
  • The FOSS4G Seoul Best Poster Presentation Award went to Jinwoo Park from Pukyong National University, Hohyun Jung, DongYoon Shin, and Chuluong Cho, of the Republic of Korea for "Development of Open Source-based Photogrammetric UAV System Using Smart Camera."

It is worth noting that the winner of the OSGeo Best Oral Presentation Student Award, Hailin Kim, is a high school student! That is really excellent news following the Europa Challenge 2015 at our sister FOSS4G Europe held earlier this year in Como, Italy, which was won by a high school student from Alaska. This shows that the new generation is pushing ahead in leading free and open principles in education, and the FOSS4G community needs to give them more support and opportunities.

OSGeo Best Oral Presentation Student winner, Hailin Kim, is a high school student. Flickr photo by KYUHO SHIM.

The Asia Special Session, which was motivated by the fact that the Asian economies already exceed those of the European Union and North America, consisted of ten excellent oral presentations reflecting on the fact that in recent years, many innovative FOSS4G technologies have emerged from Asia — just like the wonderful FOSS4G conference did a decade ago. The main theme of the session was “Open Source GIS in Asia: Past, Present and Future,” with a focus on the development and utilization of FOSS4G-related technologies in the Asian region.

The closing session of the main conferenced started off with a Lightning Talk entitled “OSGeoLive: The Best Collection of Geospatial Free and Open Source Software” by Luca Delucchi.

Another great tradition continued at FOSS4G Seoul was the Map Together! competition. The winners are shown below, and the complete gallery of maps is available online.

Category Title Creator
Best Beautiful Map Martins Linde
Best Cutting-edged Map (globe, AR, VR etc) Hiroshima Archive Hidenori Watanave
Best Web Published Map UK Global Wool Assemblages Anthonia Ijeoma Onyeahialam
Oldest Map Globo Terrestre by Giovanni Maria Cassini Jerome St-Louis
Most Unique Map Curtailing Flood Disaster in Riverine Communities in Abuja (Nigeria) with GIS Joseph Nancy Nakup
Best Interactive Map Walk Your Place Ebrahim Poorazizi

Thomas Bonfort was honored with the inaugural FOSS4G Developer Award, sponsored by GeoCat. Bonfort was selected by attendees of the FOSS4G Seoul event, who submitted ballots at the GeoCat booth. Bonfort has been a longtime member of the MapServer Project Steering Committee, and the driving force behind many enhancements, especially to the MapServer 6 and MapServer 7 releases.

Thomas Bonfort, the winner of FOSS4G Developer Award is shown with Jeroen Ticheler of GeoCat, the sponsor of the award. Flickr photo by KYUHO SHIM.

Finally, Maria Brovelli was honored with the prestigious Sol Katz Award for Geospatial Free and Open Source Software. The Sol Katz Award is awarded annually by OSGeo to individuals who have demonstrated leadership in the open source geospatial community. Brovelli, awarded as a leading advocate for FOSS4G and Geo4All, has been working at the Politecnico di Milano since 1994, first as a researcher, then as an associate professor, and finally as a full professor. She hosted FOSS4G Europe in Como, Italy, in July 2015.

Sol Katz Winner Maria Antonia Brovelli is shown here with the two chairpersons of FOSS4G, Sanghee Shin (2015) and Till Adams (2016) Flickr Photo by Jody Garrett

FOSS4G Seoul 2015 ended with a keynote speech by Jeff McKenna on the global vision of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation, and an exciting video presentation of our next global FOSS4G meeting in Bonn, Germany, August 22 - 27, 2016.

Jeff McKenna, president of OSGeo, is shown with Venkatesh Raghavan, chair of the Academic Track. Flickr photo by KYUHO SHIM.

But that was not the end of the conference for many participants. Over 40 developers gathered at CNN the Biz Gangnam Education & Training Center on September 19 for the Code Sprint. Code sprints are an integral part of the FOSS4G conferences, where developers and documenters’ exchange new ideas, work on fixing issues and bugs related to FOSS4G tools, and review feedback from users at the conference.

The packed conference program seemed inadequate to quench the desire for new information; Lightning Talks were self-organized during lunch breaks, with speakers making extemporaneous presentations on their works and results, and participants enjoying the talks while they ate. The gala dinner and social drinks provided an excellent opportunity to experience rich Korean tradition and enjoy the delicious local cuisine.

We offer many thanks to the chairpersons, Sanghee Shin and Sangki Hong, LoC, the various committee members and volunteers, and the impressive array of 39 sponsors, for the excellent organization of FOSS4G Seoul 2015. It is sad that the conference is over, but the wonderful memories will last a lifetime.

At the same time, it is very exciting thinking about seeing all the known and new faces, and learning new things in Bonn, Germany in 2016. It is the turn of the Bonn team to try to surpass the success of FOSS4G Seoul 2015. Thanks again to the Seoul team, and best wishes to the FOSS4G Bonn 2016 chairperson, Till Adams, and his team! We know that they are raring to go! Goodbye Seoul — we will surely be back!

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Creative Commons License


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