GISSA Ukubuzana 2012

I attended GISSA Ukubuzana 2012 in Johannesburg, South Africa, October 2-4. 600+ Attendees from across South Africa, and a few from neighboring countries, attended all three days of the conference.

In South Africa there is a strong community of industry leaders who work to promote standards, interoperability and data sharing. I was given the opportunity to speak at three panel sessions. The OGC was also well represented by the other speakers, including representatives from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa, South Africa's National GeoSpatial Infrastructure (NGI), the University of Pretoria, the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) and many others from the public and private sectors.

My Keynote presentation was about OGC standards for infrastructure development and service delivery. I focused on standards activities suitable for mobile applications (e.g. the OGC Open GeoSMS standard, the candidate GeoPackage standard and light weight clients). Mobiles are ubiquitous and bandwidth is an issue in South Africa. NGI has an open data policy but relies on “courier-net” to deliver data.

Some attendees were confused about the difference between OSGeo and OGC, and so OsGeo Board member Jeff McKenna and I put together a slide to address this confusion, and we encouraged them to read the joint OSGeo/OGC white paper on open source and open standards written by Arnulf Christl and Carl Reed. 

The requirement for standards derives ultimately from a desire for institutional communication and cooperation, and, as in many countries, there remain institutional barriers between the GIS, remote sensing and land surveying disciplines, and between the public security sector, mainstream IT, Telcos, weather office and so on. This was an important topic for discussion.

All of the South African OGC champions I spoke with are interested in creating a South Africa Forum to identify a baseline subset of standards for South Africa and explore standards suitable for low bandwidth regions. I discussed the possibility of the community, based initially on South African requirements, looking to perhaps lead an emerging nations’ community of interest within the OGC, over the long term. If you are interested in this, please contact me, ttaylor [at]