[Geo4All] New maillist for lab contacts

Suchith Anand Suchith.Anand at nottingham.ac.uk
Tue Apr 5 03:06:07 PDT 2016



Antony,

Thank you for your email. I am fully supportive of all efforts to expand geoeducation opportunities . I am very grateful for the opportunity that i myself got to be able to study GIS thanks to  generous scholarships from universities and also many help from many many kind people along the way and i am determined that i now do my best so that others can also get the opportunities that i got.  In fact, in my email to AAG  i gave my wholehearted support for all efforts to expand geoeducation and humbly requested to include open education principles and  FOSS4G tools. I really hope they will consider my humble request.

For education,  i believe that  Open educational Principles are fundamental to empower people and communities to make sure future generations are fully empowered [1][2].  There are many examples that helped me reach this decision.  Randal Hale gave of one example [3] on the issues on updates etc faced by a particular high school in USA.  I thought it is NOT a local problem but  a wider education problem that as educators we need to be aware of. That example was a real eye opener of the long term costs/sustainability issues of properitory GIS software in geoeducation and hence i decided to take action and contact AAG [4] when i learnt they were planning to use properitery GIS only for their geoeducation program and humbly requesting AAG to include open principles in Geoeducation and make use of FOSS4G tools. If the  vendor decides to withdraw or change the conditions of thier offer to schools now or at any stage in the future what will happen to the poor schools.  This is my biggest worry. Basically schools will be at the mercy of the  vendor. The vendor can change thier mind any time.

Scalability is key for cost/sustainability issues. Imagine not one  school  but hundreds of thousands of schools across USA having to buy licences in say 5-10 years time what will be happen to the  whole program.  I am concerned about any enslavement strategies like reducing prices and giving 'free' online accounts for a limited period and when the local government and schools moves its systems to their proprietary online web services they start charging huge costs.

Please also look into existing successful  initiatives in Open Principles in Education other countries to understand why scalability and costs for scaling is fundamental .For example in India,  in the State of Kerala  (where i come from)  there is  a project called IT at Schools. It is one of the largest simultaneous deployment of Free and Open Source Software based ICT education ( in over 12,000 schools benefiting 200,000 teachers and 6 million students ) that has transformed access to quality education to even students from the poorest backgrounds.  This is a good example of scalability of  education opportunities with very little resources using Open Principles. Details at https://www.itschool.gov.in/glance.php

Imagine if all these 12000+ schools and 6 million students had to depend on a proprietary vendor for their teaching and learning. This simple idea can be scaled to millions of schools globally .This empowerment of educators and students  is the true essence and gift  of Open Principles.

I gave specific examples from both schools and government where propertiery vendor has changed terms. I am especially thankful to Randal Hale (who gave an example from the difficulties faced by a high school in USA ) and Dave Murray's (GIS Coordinator, City of Westminster, USA ) for having the courage to share thier experiences. There are so many other examples like these but  even some colleagues with Geo4All  are too scared to share thier experiences publically.

For example, Dave Murray's  send this reply to my mail discussions in Geo4All mail lists in June 2015 [4] on the importance of having Open Principles in Education for our future generations. Dave has kindly given permission to share his email with the wider geo community so the wider community is aware of these kind of marketing gimmicks and vendor lock-in tactics.

"We got caught in the proprietary vendor's trap a couple of years ago. Our public works department adopted the vendor's online service. We had a number of business operations running that were critical to our success. Then the vendor told us the service would cost $15,000 + per year to continue. Quite a shock and after we even promoted their service at conferences. After that, I have real questions about what I can believe from them." [4]

When i read Dave Murray's (GIS Coordinator, City of Westminster, USA ) email on this , i realised that this is a much wider problem and we need to make all colleagues globally aware of the dangers of falling into some Proprietary vendor's very clever marketing trap. It will help others realise the costs of being silent as it is affecting not just government departments such as City of Westminister in USA and hundreds of other organisations worldwide but our future generations education opportunities. I am determined to do my best to make sure education is not at the dictates of any vendor.Education should  not be lead by vendors interest.

Attempts to create monopoly through various traps is not good whether it is properitery company or open source company.  I am concerned about the effects of creating monopoly esp. if it affects education. It really doesnt matter if it is open source company or properiery company , if anyone try to impose monopoly in education, then it is cause of great concern to me. It was exactly for this reason i emailed MapStory Foundation that they should make sure all tools used for thier platform is build on free and open tools including 3D virtual globes. I brought to attention of Chris about my concerns  on Cesium (open source company) for 3D virtual globes in education . Chris send a detailed email assuring that  MapStory.org will be free to use for everyone on earth, forever [6]. This is exactly what we want to know. Software X or Y doesnt matter, it is the importance to protect Open Principles in education and that is the key. The main requirement for the online education platform  is that all the software and tools used for our education will need to be free and open (not only now but for the future).

I was forced to write  open letters on important issues that undermine Open Principles  [7],[8] as i am aware of the huge sponsorship pressure that vendors can apply to thier advantage. Even my emails on Geo4All initially were not allowed in some maillists as some list administrators were scared to upset sponsor and the prospect of losing sponsorship opportunity!

As part of my research work at the University of Nottingham over the last 10 years,  i had the opportunity to  work with many different organisations in various research projects from not for profit foundations to properitary companies and i believe everyone has their right to be part and contribute thier value addition to the wider geo ecosystem . Having many players is key for ensuring strong competition and making sure there are no monopolies created.  My stand is only based on protecting open principles in GeoEducation.  I really cannot understand  for example why QGIS or MapStory platform cannot be used for GeoMentor program . Why is the focus on ONLY one properitery GIS platform for Geomentors program? I really hope we can work with AAG is including Open Principles firmly in thier education program and we will be pleased to provide all support for this.


Every time i visit India, i always make sure however busy i am, i visit atleast one school and talk with teachers and students.  One of the most profound questions i was asked was by a  student in a small school in India that i visited some years back . From speaking to the teachers i understood that many of the students at that school were from very poor backgrounds. That school didnt even have a proper library but had just started a small "computer lab" .Basically it was 3 computers connected to the internet running on Open Source Software . The students were now  for the first time getting opportunity using online resources like wikipedia for thier study. The students were very excited about resources like Wikipedia and one student asked me  the question "Will this be always available to us?" and i looked at her and   told her that she can be fully assured that she and all students will always have access to these resources as they are fully free and open and more importantly there are thousands of amazing people worldwide who are doing selfless service by working to make these free and open tools so that the doors of opportunities will always be kept open for everyone. These students have no money power or sponsorship power to make thier voice heard and we need to be thier voice .I also decided that day that i will do my best to make sure open principles in education are protected,  so that  students in all schools  worldwide (irrespective of thier economic background) who now are seeing a small glimmer of hope will have that doors of education opportunity always open.

Best wishes,

Suchith

PS: Please use our new email address geoforall at lists.osgeo.org  NOT  ica-osgeo-labs at lists.osgeo.org . Thanks


[1] http://opensourcegeospatial.icaci.org/2016/02/future-of-gis-should-be-empowerment-not-enslavement-examples-needed-for-geo4all-newsletter
[2] http://opensourcegeospatial.icaci.org/2016/02/geo4all-cartographic-challenge-how-openness-can-help-to-reduce-inequality/
[3] http://lists.osgeo.org/pipermail/discuss/2015-June/014310.html
[4] https://lists.osgeo.org/pipermail/ica-osgeo-labs/2015-June/001828.html
[5] http://lists.osgeo.org/pipermail/ica-osgeo-labs/2015-June/001742.html
[6] https://lists.osgeo.org/pipermail/geoforall/2016-February/002631.html
[7] http://www.osgeo.org/node/1518
[8] http://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/LIDAR_Format_Letter


________________________________
From: Anthony Robinson [acr181 at psu.edu]
Sent: Monday, April 04, 2016 4:03 PM
To: ica-osgeo-labs at lists.osgeo.org; geoforall-ab at lists.osgeo.org
Subject: RE: [Geo4All] New maillist for lab contacts

Suchith,

Isn’t it a bit over the line to describe Esri’s approach as an “enslavement” strategy? Are you similarly critical of VC-backed startup companies in the FOSS4G realm? Both types of companies have profit motives at their core, and both types have active efforts to recruit teachers and students into their platforms for market-driven reasons.

I think this kind of language is unhelpful and that more could be accomplished with a positive approach. For example, instead of claiming that people associated with AAG are pawns as you did in your recent message – why not engage in a conversation with them to find out more about what can be done from the FOSS4G side of the equation? Open letters aren’t the only or best way to start a conversation.

These folks at the AAG are smart, passionate people who care first and foremost about teaching as many people as possible about geography. I also think that the education/outreach missions at Esri, CartoDB, Mapbox, and Boundless are fundamentally good things that are led by good people who care about education. Anyone who has interacted with the people in these firms can attest to that. It’s possible for people to do good work for a good purpose while also working in a for profit enterprise.

Unless I missed it, I don’t think Geo4All has proposed a viable alternative that would support carrying out the mission that the GeoMentors program is trying to accomplish. It would seem like achieving that goal should be an easy thing for everyone to rally around. I bet the net effect of doing so would lead to more kids learning more about geography, which is something everyone could be happy about.

I hope that the next time the Geo4All advisory board meets that it considers a range of opinions on its overall approach and tone. I am of course just one voice here, but as someone with students and alumni working in each of the firms I mentioned above, as well as hundreds of other geospatial enterprises spanning proprietary and open source, I can’t advocate for a position that casts large swaths of our community as inherently evil. It would seem to me that a mantra of “More People Making Maps That Matter” or something similar would be a stronger rallying cry.

Regards,

-Anthony


Anthony C. Robinson, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Geography
Director for Online Geospatial Education, John A. Dutton e-Education Institute
Assistant Director, GeoVISTA Center
The Pennsylvania State University
sites.psu.edu/arobinson/


From: ica-osgeo-labs [mailto:ica-osgeo-labs-bounces at lists.osgeo.org] On Behalf Of Suchith Anand
Sent: Sunday, April 3, 2016 7:44 AM
To: ica-osgeo-labs at lists.osgeo.org; geoforall-ab at lists.osgeo.org
Subject: [Geo4All] New maillist for lab contacts

Dear All,

The Advisory Board of Geo4All had been key for giving us strategic advice and guidance over our initial growing years. When we started on this initiative, we did not think we will have over 100 labs in 4 years time and hence our AB's help and advice were critical in every stage of our growth (from setting up regional chairs to help manage the process to ideas/inputs for various topics). Our Regional chairs are the decision makers of new lab members in each region (all new members interested to join the initiative have to apply to them) and Regional Chairs help provide any inputs as needed to the AB.

As we are now over 100 labs (and we will be over 1000 before we know), so it is important that we put in structures for efficient and participatory decision making for the initiative . Hence we have setup a maillist (this will be low traffic) for all the main contacts of each lab. I request the main contact of each lab to join this maillist.

https://lists.osgeo.org/mailman/listinfo/geoforall-labdirectors

The heads of all our labs are the stakeholders of Geo4All and thier voice need to be included in the decision making. They should be helping selecting new Advisory Board (every 4 years), Regional chairs for the future and contribute to all key decision making.

With our plans in place for Geo4All schools thematic (lead by Nikos and Ela) to be launched soon , we will have exponential growth. We have been waiting to get a free and open, easy to use online geoplatform and with MapStory Foundation's help we now have at our disposal a great teaching platform for expanding our spatial literacy program to schools globally. Now teachers globally will not be at the mercy of any properitery vendor's enslavement strategies. No vendor will be able to dictate thier terms to any schools, universities , teachers and educators in the future.

Thanks again for everyone  of you who have contributed to Geo4All initiative.

Best wishes,

Suchith







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