Monday 28 March 2016

Open Government & lessons from Open Source & Open Standards

The Australian Government has committed to contributing towards the international Open Government Partnership (OGP). This is awesome on so many levels. In particular, it is recognition that working openly and collaboratively facilitates more ethical, transparent, effective and efficient government.

My assessment is the Australian Government National Action Plan is based on solid principles and goals, but implementation recommendations are still relatively immature. It is as if experiences so far have been based on small pilot projects and small groups and is yet to hit the challenges associated with scalability, reliability, maintainability and interoperability.

Lets expand on this statement, under National Action Plan Themes:

Freedom of Information:

Australia has an open by default policy for government data. A great first step, but of minimal value until the data is readily usable. Yes, a bus timetable is useful when a paper copy of it is distributed to commuters every 6 months. But it is super useful when bus timetables are integrated with real-time bus and traffic data travel plans can be adjusted accordingly. This is facilitated by the concept of "mashable government" where government data is made available in machine readable form via standards based Application Programmer Interfaces (APIs).
Cross agency integration of datasets can open up significant value, but usually requires addressing of technical, financial, legal and social challenges. Agencies need to agree upon common formats for common datasets (typically through use open standards). Who benefits from aggregated datasets is usually different to those who collects and maintains the data. As such, solving integration issues often requires creative, cross-agency, business cases to be crafted.
The National Action Plan should discuss: Mashable Government, APIs, use/extend/create open standards (in that order), writing business cases to identify high value datasets, and cross-agency funding of data management strategies.

Public Participation:

There has been good progress in bi-directional communication between citizens and government. There are now excellent tools to run YES/NO polls past many people to gauge community sentiment.
A challenge worth tackling is how to enable public debate and evidence based decisions on complex topics - such as Climate Change. Complex systems require significant time to understand, which makes them susceptible to misdirected influence from vested interest groups. Questions to consider:

  • Who will fund "trusted experts" to research and advise on complex issues so they can make informed decisions?
  • How can a community vote on complex subjects?
  • How do you address the signal-to-noise ratio within community discussions?

Fiscal Transparency:

Despite open government policies highlighting benefits of open source software and open standards, government uptake of open source is surprisingly low. Why? Because government purchasing practices inadvertently favour proprietary software and vendor lock-in tactics over collaborative business practices used by open communities. There are multiple aspects to this, which should be understood, leading to updated guidelines to government purchasing practices. Some considerations include:

  • How to compare long term value of open source and proprietary business models.
  • How to assess the health of an open source community and associated rate of innovation in order to properly assess the value of open source.
  • How to assess a product's claims of standards compliance. Some companies dissuade standards use by pricing extra for standards use, or limiting standards based functionality.
  • How to assess the quality and applicability of a standard, and whether to invest in influencing the development of the standard.
  • Typically government officials have mandate to solve department-wide problems, however open source and open standards based solutions will often be best justified at a Whole-Of-Government, or Whole-Of-World level. One particular argument is "If I invest in an open standard, or open source, I will see minimal immediate benefit, but long term will see international adoption which will lead to advancement of my local goals."
  • Government's asymmetric spending of discretionary budgets at year-end disadvantages fee-for-service business models typically employed by open source businesses.

Basis for suggestions:

My perspective is based upon decades developing software, including working within large defence software programs, integrating data from different organisations within web based spatial data infrastructures, writing open source software and building open source communities, developing open standards and defending open standards against vested interests, writing business cases and policies around open source adoption, and building systems based on open source and open standards for Australian government.

Saturday 26 March 2016

OSGeo-Live 9.5 released

The OSGeo Community has released the latest OSGeo-Live reference distribution of geospatial open-source software, version 9.5. Once again, people across the globe can depend on OSGeo-Live to provide robust, ready-to-use installations of all key open source geospatial applications, along with overviews and examples.
"With two new applications added, 22 applications updated, all based upon 8 years of continuous developments and refinements, we believe this to be our most stable, usable, and feature rich distribution to date", said Angelos Tzotsos, OSGeo-Live build manager.
"We are pleased to be seeing steady increased adoption of OSGeo-Live from educational programs, complementing the already wide use at geospatial conferences and workshops", said Cameron Shorter, one of the OSGeo-Live coordinators.

Release Highlights

Updated Applications:

  • 22 geospatial programs have been updated to newer versions, including major updates from:
  • QGIS 2.14 LTR with more than one hundred new features added or improved since the last QGIS LTR release (version 2.8), sponsored by dozens of geospatial data providers, private sector companies and public sector governing bodies around the world.
  • GeoNetwork 3.0 with a brand new user interface and a bunch of new features.
  • MapServer 7.0 with many new features, including improved complex filtering, labeling performance and ability to render non-latin scripts.
New Applications:

  • Java World Wind - Desktop Virtual Globe
  • istSOS - Sensor Observation Service

About OSGeo-Live

OSGeo-Live is a self-contained bootable USB flash drive, DVD and Virtual Machine, pre-installed with robust open source geospatial software, which can be trialled without installing anything.
It includes:

  • Over 50 quality geospatial Open Source applications and libraries, installed and pre-configured, to address a range of use cases, including storage, publishing, viewing, analysis and data science
  • Free world maps and sample datasets
  • Project Overview and step-by-step Quickstart for each application
  • Lightning presentation of all applications, along with speaker's script
  • Overviews of key OGC standards
  • Translations to multiple languages
  • Based upon the rock-solid Lubuntu 14.04 LTS GNU/Linux distribution, combined with the light-weight LXDE desktop interface for ease of use.

Download details:
Post release glitches collected here:


Over 180 people have directly helped with OSGeo-Live packaging, documenting and translating, and thousands have been involved in building the packaged software.
Developers, packagers, documenters and translators include:
Activity Workshop, Agustín Dí­ez, Aikaterini Kapsampeli, Alan Beccati, Alan Boudreault, Alessandro Furieri, Alexander Bruy, Alexander Kleshnin, Alexander Muriy, Alexandre Dube, Alexey Ardyakov, Alex Mandel, Amy Gao, Andrea Antonello, Andrea Yanza, Andrey Syrokomskiy, Andry Rustanto, Angelos Tzotsos, Anna Muñoz, Antonio Falciano, Antonio Santiago, Anton Novichikhin, Anton Patrushev, Argyros Argyridis, Ariel Núñez, Assumpció Termens, Astrid Emde, Balasubramaniam Natarajan, Barry Rowlingson, Benjamin Pross, Brian Hamlin, Bruno Binet, Bu Kun, Cameron Shorter, Christophe Tufféry, Christos Iossifidis, Cristhian Pin, Damian Wojsław, Dane Springmeyer, Daniel Kastl, Danilo Bretschneider, Daria Svidzinska, David Mateos, Denis Rykov, Diego González, Diego Migliavacca, Dimitar Misev, Dmitry Baryshnikov, Dominik Helle, Edgar Soldin, Eike Hinderk Jürrens, Elena Mezzini, Eric Lemoine, Erika Pillu, Estela Llorente, Etienne Delay, Etienne Dube, Evgeny Nikulin, Fabian Schindler, Fran Boon, François Prunayre, Frank Gasdorf, Frank Warmerdam, Friedjoff Trautwein, Gabriele Prestifilippo, Gavin Treadgold, Giuseppe Calamita, Gérald Fenoy, Grigory Rozhentsov, Guillaume Pasero, Guy Griffiths, Hamish Bowman, Haruyuki Seki, Henry Addo, Hernan Olivera, Hirofumi Hayashi, Howard Butler, Hyeyeong Choe, Ian Edwards, Ian Turton, Ilya Filippov, Jackie Ng, Jan Drewnak, Jane Lewis, Javier Rodrigo, Javier Sánchez, Jesús Gómez, Jim Klassen, Jing Wang, Jinsongdi Yu, Jody Garnett, Johan Van de Wauw, John Bryant, Jorge Arévalo, Jorge Sanz, José Antonio Canalejo, José Vicente Higón, Judit Mays, Klokan Petr Pridal, Ko Nagase, Kristof Lange, kuzkok, Lance McKee, Larry Shaffer, Lars Lingner, Luca Delucchi, Lucía Sanjaime, Mage Whopper, Manuel Grizonnet, Marc-André Barbeau, Marco Curreli, Marco Puppin, Marc Torres, Margherita Di Leo, Maria Vakalopoulou, Mario Andino, Mario Carrera, Mark Leslie, Markus Neteler, Massimo Di Stefano, Matteo De Stefano, Matthias Streulens, Mauricio Miranda, Mauricio Pazos, Maxim Dubinin, Michaël Michaud, Michael Owonibi, Micha Silver, Mike Adair, Milan P. Antonovic, Milena Nowotarska, M Iqnaul Haq Siregar, Nacho Varela, Nadiia Gorash, Name, Nathaniel V. Kelso, Ned Horning, Nicolas Roelandt, Nobusuke Iwasaki, Oliver Tonnhofer, Òscar Fonts, Otto Dassau, Pasquale Di Donato, Patric Hafner, Paul Meems, Pavel, Pedro-Juan Ferrer, Pirmin Kalberer, Raf Roset, Regina Obe, Ricardo Pinho, Roald de Wit, Roberta Fagandini, Roberto Antolin, Roberto Antolí­n, Robin Lovelace, Roger Veciana, Ruth Schoenbuchner, Samuel Mesa, Scott Penrose, Sergey Grachev, Sergey Popov, Sergio Baños, Simon Cropper, Simon Pigot, Stefan A. Tzeggai, Stefan Hansen, Stefan Steiniger, Stephan Meissl, Steve Lime, Takayuki Nuimura, Thierry Badard, Thomas Baschetti, Thomas Gratier, Tom Kralidis, Toshikazu Seto, Trevor Wekel, Valenty González, Vera, Victor Poughon, Xianfeng Song, Yoichi Kayama, Zhengfan Lin, Zoltan Siki

Sponsoring organisations

  • The Open Source Geospatial Foundation provides development & hosting infrastructure for OSGeo-Live and many of the included applications.
  • LISAsoft provides sustaining resources and staff toward management and packaging.
  • Information Center for the Environment (ICE) at the University of California, Davis provides hardware resources and development support.
  • Remote Sensing Laboratory at the National Technical University of Athens, provides hardware resources and development support.
  • The Debian GIS and UbuntuGIS teams provide and quality-assure many of the core packages.
  • Okeanos is kindly providing Virtual Machines for building the OSGeoLive iso images.

Sunday 6 March 2016

OSGeo-Live 9.5 call for translators and testers

We are almost at the end of our OSGeo-Live 9.5 development cycle, and are calling for translators to help update docs, and testers to verify latest versions of software works. In particular, we need help to:

  1. Run Quickstarts and verify they still works as described, complete.
  2. Update review status in our spreadsheet. (It really helps us know that an application has been reviewed, and by who).
  3. Translate docs that have been updated.
Package & Doc Status: ... here

What's Changed:

Three new applications:
  1. istSOS - Sensor Observation Service
  2. Jupyter Notebooks -Mixing rich media in documentation
  3. Java World Wind - Desktop Virtual Globe
The following applications have been updated:
  • cartaro 1.8 -> 1.9
  • cesium 1.11 -> 1.18
  • geonetwork 2.10.4 -> 3.0.3
  • grass 7.0.1 -> 7.0.3
  • geonode 2.4a7 -> 2.4.0
  • geoserver 2.7.2 -> 2.8.2
  • iris 1.6.1 -> 1.9.0
  • mapbender ->
  • mapserver 6.4.1 -> 7.0.0
  • ossim 1.8.19 -> 1.8.20
  • openjump 1.8.0 -> 1.9.0
  • openlayers 3.7.0 -> 3.13.1
  • otb 5.0.0 -> 5.2.0
  • postgis 2.1.3 -> 2.2.1
  • pycsw 1.10.1 -> 1.10.3
  • qgis_mapserver 2.8.3 -> 2.12.1
  • qgis 2.8.3 -> 2.12.1
  • saga 2.2.0 -> 2.2.4
  • gdal 1.11.2 -> 1.11.3
  • geos 3.4.2 -> 3.5.0


7 March 2016 : Docs updated
13 March 2016: Docs translated
14 March 2016: OSGeo-Live 9.5RC1. Call for final testing
21 March 2016: Final OSGeo-Live9.5

... full schedule

About OSGeo-Live

OSGeo-live is a Lubuntu based distribution of Geospatial Open Source Software, available via a Live DVD, Virtual Machine and USB. You can use OSGeo-Live to try a wide variety of open source geospatial software without installing anything.