[OSGeo Africa] FW: FOSS vs ESRI and other GIS issues

Walter Smit walter.s at sa-solutions.co.za
Wed Jun 5 03:19:27 PDT 2013

Hi Ray

I have been physically deployed in a national government department (DRDLR) for the past 18months and many of your points are very true. I could write a whole essay about it, but here are some quick points.

*        Training and inexperienced staff – I have had to teach graduated GIS people (from various universities) what the difference is between files and folders. Seems to me that many universities are missing the plot completely on how to make young people ready for actual work.

*        “not programmers” – true, but the FOSS software I have used does not require any more programming than over-the-counter suites.

*        Enough PGPs? Correct, there are very few. It is however a fallacy that you need to be mentored by a PGP to be able to register with Plato (I was not – and I didn’t get the benefit of the Grandfather clause either). I don’t know who started this lie, but it seems to stop people from even trying to register.

*        I cannot comment on unscrupulous service providers – solutions should be scalable.

*        Freestate in the limelight – I actually asked someone with more knowledge than the reporters. He was of the opinion that the service provider under quoted, because the range and scope of related services to that website was enormous. Like following several officials around to all their meetings for a year. 

*        Why pay more than once? Petty politics and leaders protecting their own little empires. And corruption of course. We have tried doing this for 18months…no luck yet. Also the communication between provinces and levels of government is ludicrously poor. Do you know what your direct neighbours in Environmental Affairs are using? Hopefully Enrico and Nacelle will be uploading their Bioregional Plans to the sharing platform when they are done. The same platform where you can see the EIAs from NEIMS…*shameless plug*

*        Data with known custodians. Have been doing this for 12months…it is very very difficult. Reasons: lack of high level regard for (spatial) data, capacity and attitudes of “it isn’t in my job description”. Hopefully more OSD posts will change this. Remember that very few departments have ever taken responsibility for spatial data – ever. It is a massively foreign concept to them. We are making good progress on this in 2 provinces. In the Northern Cape we have actually got all the HODs to sign MOUs that they will be custodians for their datasets. Appointing the actual person/post to an actual dataset is more of a challenge. 

*        GIS people in government. Lack of funding usually, or no GIS posts on their organograms. Government salaries for GIS people are actually much higher than private sector.

*        IT support in government. Cannot comment on something that doesn’t exist :)

Personally I believe that departments would be better served by implementing FOSS and spending the saved money on training. Because training (regardless of software used) is what people really need. But then again…Tswane…why change a system if it is already working for them? And their staff have probably already had some decent training.

Rant over,


Walter Smit


Professional GISc Practitioner SA (PGP 1193)




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