[Board] Clarifications regarding Romanian local chapter

Vasile Craciunescu vasile at geo-spatial.org
Wed Jan 19 06:54:57 PST 2011

Dear board members,

Couple months ago, the Romanian "in formation" local chapter, forward to 
the board members an official expression of interest to be to be 
recognized as a full OSGeo local chapter 
 From the last board meeting minute 
(<http://logs.qgis.org/osgeo/%23osgeo.2010-12-16.log>) we saw that some 
members raise concerns regarding the mix of proprietary software related 
materials along with the FOSS4G ones on geo-spatial.org. I'd like to 
take a little bit of your time to better clarify the Romanian "in 
formation" local chapter activity. As the original request letter 
mention the Romanian chapter formed around geo-spatial.org, a geospatial 
community website. geo-spatial.org was started in early 2006 aiming to 
"explore concepts, techniques and tools specific geospatial community. 
Promote adoption of free and open source software solutions, without 
ignoring the proprietary ones. It campaigns for the democratization of 
access to geographical data and proposed map as a universal tool of 
communication..." (<http://earth.unibuc.ro/info>). Why considering the 
proprietary side? Easy, at that time, in Romania, we had practically no 
FOSS4G community. Even worse, the geospatial knowledge was restricted to 
a very limited group of people. The universities had no coherent (and 
practical) curricula and courses for teaching students GIS, few books 
(2-3) in Romanian language were focused on GIS topic (only principles, 
nothing applied), GIS courses were available only at some proprietary 
software vendors, at prohibitive prices. The website emerged as a 
collaborative platform to freely share geospatial knowledge and data. At 
this point, a topic statistic of the published materials looks like this:

FOSS4G and open geodata: 111
Proprietary software: 27
Neutral (e.g. book reviews, algorithms, coordinate transformations, open 
letters): 106

Our policy is not to stop an author who want to publish an tutorial on 
how to do something with proprietary software but to try to encourage 
him to write how the same thing can be achieved with FOSS software. 
Perhaps a third of the tutorials illustrated with proprietary software 
also present an FOSS4G way. For the future we don't intend to change 
this policy. Some geospatial knowledge is better than no knowledge in a 
country with yet so little affordable geospatial resources.

Practical workshops are another way of promoting FOSS4G software and 
principles here in Romania. geo-spatial.org community organized so far a 
number of such events in different location across the country. In the 
last three years we manage to accommodate hundred of participants in 
such events. I'll not get into more details as this actions were 
described in detail in the the official expression of interest and the 
annual reports. I just want to mention the last event (not covered by 
the letter) which was held in Timișoara (19-20 November 2010) with more 
than 100 participants. The detailed program is published at 
<http://earth.unibuc.ro/osgeo/timisoara2010>. Conclusions, photos, 
videos, presentations and support materials for workshops are available 
at <http://earth.unibuc.ro/osgeo/concluzii-timisoara2011>. It is true, 
at this event, in the plenary session, we host a presentation given by 
an Esri guy. From our point of view, this was more like an challenge 
from Esri Romania to see if we allow them to present something at our 
FOSS4G event and also a confirmation that the Romanian FOSS4G community 
started to represent something. Was the same kind of presentation that 
we witnessed at the FOSS4G conference. We never did an workshop with 
proprietary software and do not intend to do so in the future. The next 
FOSS4G workshop is planned for April 2011 in Cluj Napoca.

Another project, started by geo-spatial.org, which follow the OSGeo 
principles is called eHarta (<http://earth.unibuc.ro/articole/eHarta>). 
Basically we try to freely publish thousands of old maps and atlases 
with the help of the community. For this, we created a series of online 
tools for the community to enter metadata for the maps 
(<http://earth.unibuc.ro/articole/eHarta-work-planurile-de-tragere>) and 
place georeference control points 
(<http://earth.unibuc.ro/articole/eHarta-work-planurile-de-tragere-gcp>). We 
now have now 189 active users and the first batch of 1780 maps were 
documented and geooreferenced in less than one week of collaborative work.

Beside the activities carried in the name of geo-spatial.org and the 
local chapter, the people behind this also get involved in FOSS4G 
promotion (personally or representing their institutions). I would like 
to mention some of this actions, as they have an important role in 
FOSS4G adoption here in Romania.

1. In December 2006, people from the Romanian Space Agency (ROSA) manage 
to get resources to support Jo Walsh visit in Romanian to give an FOSS4G 
and OSGeo presentation at the National Spatial Data Infrastructure 

2. December 2007, at the same conference, we manage to organize an open 
source geospatial software workshop. Detailed presentations and step by 
step demonstrations were made for: QGIS, uDig, PostGIS, Geoserver, 
MapWindow, OpenLayers and VTP. FOSS4G presentations were given also at 
2008 and 2009 similar events.

3. Local chapter activity and FOSS4G case studies were presented in 
several other national and international events by the community 
members, with financial support from their employers (e.g. all FOSS4G's 
2006-2010; eLiberatica 2008 - Bucharest (<http://eliberatica.ro>), 
international GIS Conference 2007 - Chișinău, CASCADOSS Workshop 2008 - 
Warsaw (<http://cascadoss.eu>), INSPIRE Conference 2010 - Krakow 
EGU General Assembly 2009 and 2010 - Vienna (<http://www.egu.eu/>), 
ISRSE 2009 - Stresa (<http://isrse-33.jrc.ec.europa.eu/>)).

4. Our colleagues from the Bucharest University - Faculty of Geography 
are maintaining a LIVE-DVD with FOSS4G software and Romanian datasets 

5. Through the same university we provide hosting support for the 
Romanian GRASS mirror (http://grass.unibuc.ro).

6. Through ROSA, in 2008 we manage to support Ben Discoe (VTP project) 
to give a one week workshop in Bucharest on 3D visualization using VTP 

7. Several people from our chapter are involved in the development of 
some interesting open source projects (e.g. LeoWorks for European Space 
Agency <http://leoworks.asrc.ro/>).

8. As a technical manager I was able to change an important LIFE project 
(1.2 millions Euro) from an proprietary based architecture to an open 
source one, saving an important amount of money which was transferred to 
sensors and equipments, proving that standard compliant free and open 
source software can be successfully used in building such complex 
system. More details regarding the open source part of the project are 
available on this osor.eu study 

9. Final, maybe the most important achievement for the future generation 
of geospatial users in Romania, a team with people behind the Romanian 
local chapter proposed and won a three year grant of approximatively 
three million Euros to train 700 geography teachers in how to use open 
source GIS and remote sensing tools when teaching in class 

I will conclude here this already long email. We are not sure if our 
activity is enough to become an official local chapter. However, a lot 
of effort and community enthusiasm was invested in all the presented 
actions. We now have the critical mass of FOSS4G users and new people 
are joining in each month. For us this is the most important thing.

If more clarifications are needed please don't hesitate in contact us 
through the board or local chapter mailing list.

Vasile (in the name of the Romanian "in formation" local chapter)

Vasile Crăciunescu
geo-spatial.org: An elegant place for sharing geoKnowledge & geoData

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