[OSGeo Africa] FOSS vs ESRI and other GIS issues

justman suh justmansuh at gmail.com
Wed Jun 5 04:59:07 PDT 2013

Hi All, (A Students Opinion)
My opinion and concerns are very much in-line with that of @Ray. I am a
student currently in the Free State. The issue of Government employing
graduates to perform GIS tasks is one that baffles me as well.
Very limited training (Semester Modules) are offered by the university and
to make matters worst, it is a Proprietary Software (ESRI's) that is being
widely used for training. This results in limitation of fellow students to
purchase and practice with the Software.
Now that this TOPIC is making the rounds yet, i will suggest that
Universities around the Country make use of FOSS (Compulsory) in training
students as well as ESRI's (Maybe Optional).
I pride myself that i took the initiative to take up training in Quantum
GIS some two years ago (I was still in my Second Year @University). I was
discussing with our Student Assistant (A senior Honors Student doing GIS)
and he openly admitted he didn't know about Quantum GIS. I had to give him
the FOSS and Tutorial notes. This shows how narrow a graduate leaves a
tertiary Institution with a B.Degree and yet doing an Honors degree and
knows nothing about FOSS programs.
If in-efficiency is to be blamed on Young Government Employed GIS Techs or
Administrators, I believe the BLAME AND SHAME should go Maybe entirely to
the Tertiary Institutions (Maybe) and Education Department for having a
poor/narrow Curriculum Requirement.
I guess its time this Group, GISSA, SSAG and other Related Organizations
can advocate for Continuous trainings at Tertiary Institutions with FOSS
and or the Need for GIS to be offered  as a COMPULSORY YEAR Module in
Varsities not SEMESTER offerings. Besides GIS WEEK is barely known by
Students in various Education and Training Institutions, talk less of their
engagement to activities thereof.
I think WE need Student forums across the Country especially when it
concerns FOSS and their uses.

Good day All

On 5 June 2013 10:00, Ray Schaller <rschaller at nwpg.gov.za> wrote:

>  Hi All******
>  ****
> I have been following the debate around Tshwane illegally requesting
> tender for ESRI software. Questions that are linked to the above are?****
> ·        Do we have enough Professional GIS Practioners in the public
> sector. Often when government departments advertise for a GIS post, the
> only applicants applying are those who have just left universities, with
> the majority of them, only having undertaken a semester course in GIS.
> These individuals end up getting employed, and are often tasked to manage
> the GIS. Very few government departments employ a critical mass of GIS
> staff with the result that the GIS is often run by one individual and never
> properly implemented. No long term benefits are seen arising as a result of
> implementing a GIS, which results in decision-makers wanting to budget less
> on GIS.****
> ·        These same individuals continually request GIS training. If
> budgets allow they go on training. They learn what the software does but
> many of them still have no idea on how to apply the software in there
> everyday jobs. ****
> ·        They are not programmers and have no idea on how to adapt the
> open source software to their needs. They are totally reliant on service
> providers to assist them. These service providers fees are often  similar
> to what a company like ESRI charges. ****
> ·        Because of the lack of skills and capacity on behalf of the
> Govt. Departments, Service Providers are called to assist in all technical
> matters. These same departments face budget constraints. ****
> ·        I have witnessed cases where there is little scalability built
> into the solutions provided. When changes need to be made you need to
> either contract in the same service providers because they have not
> prepared to release the source code, or you have to start from scratch. **
> **
> ·        There is merit in contracting in the services of a sizeable
> IT/GIS company to provide a solution. Costs can be brought down as large
> companies generally have the expertise in building a complete system. ****
> ·        Recently the Free State Administration has been in the limelight
> with regards the amount that has been paid for providing what is basically
> an open source web solution. ****
>  ****
> A question that I would like answered is why do we need to pay for the
> development of a information system/ enterprise GIS more than once. For
> example, every provincial environmental department needs a permitting
> system. We are seeing service providers developing a system for one
> province and then taking the same source code and developing a system for
> another province. Why can't national departments undertake a user
> requirements of what is required at all levels of government. They should
> be developing an information system with each provincial and local
> department being provided with a component that has been specifically being
> designed for their needs. As taxpayers we are paying for the development of
> a specific system many times over.****
>  ****
> This also applies to data. Government bodies or should I say  Tax payers
> are paying service providers to source datasets that should be residing in
> an SDI or with a known data custodian. ****
>  ****
> For GIS community to really take off in the country, we need to look at
> the human component first. What skills are needed and where does capacity
> need to be built. We need GIS and IT/IS professionals to be mentors. We
> need professionals  to adjudicate our government tenders with regards
> IT/IS/GIS developments. To be recognized by PLATO as a GIS Professional or
> GIS Technologist one needs to be mentored as a GIS Professional. How many
> GIS professionals are there and where are they being employed. Very few GIS
> professionals exist, I stand to be corrected but up to a year ago only 1
> professional was registered in the North West. ****
>  ****
> To end off Adi mentions that he is undertaking an audit of what has been
> spent on GIS software. This audit needs to be expanded to cover the
> following:****
> ·        Number of GIS individuals employed within each of the government
> institutions and there level of expertise.****
> ·        What is spent on GIS budgets every year.****
> ·        The level of implementation with regards GIS in the different
> government departments, i.e. What do they do with GIS.****
> ·        The level of IT support in these departments. GIS is not going
> to succeed without proper departmental IT support.****
> ·        The level of implementation of a FOSS solution versus a over the
> counter solution, i.e. ESRI or Integraph. ****
>  ****
> Ray
> ****
> *Ray Schaller*
> *Conservation Planner*
> *** ***
> *the DEDECT*
> * Department:Economic Development, *
> *Environment, Conservation and Tourism*
> *North West Provincial Government *
> *** ***
> *Republic of South Africa*
> *** ***
> *Tel:      +27-18-389-5324*
> *Fax:     +27-18-389-5646*
> *Cell:     +27-82-375-9934*
> *Email:  r <rschaller at nwpg.gov.za>schaller at nwpg.gov.za*****
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