GeoAmbassador of the month – Nimalika Fernando

Dear colleagues,

It is my great pleasure to introduce Nimalika Fernando as our GeoAmbassador. I am grateful for this opportunity of introducing some of our amazing colleagues from different parts of our world each month as our GeoAmbassadors and this has also helped me also to learn and get inspired by their amazing work and contributions for the wider community. Nimalika established the OSGeo lab at Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology(SLIIT), Sri Lanka in 2014. Though I have not yet got the opportunity to meet Nimalika , I am amazed by her teaching and contributions she made.

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Nimalika Fernando was an academic attached to Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology(SLIIT), Sri Lanka from 2001 -2016 and now she is a research student at Curtin University, Perth Australia. Nimalika has moved to geospatial domain in 2005 with her MSc project, without having any formal education in GIS . GIS became practically important to the country at that time as Sri Lanka was facing large planning issues after 2004 Tsunami with no much technological knowledge at hand. Dr. Waidyasekara, a GIS enthusiastic who was a senior academic at SLIIT that time proposed a web GIS for post disaster recovery management but the concept and technologies were entirely new to the country. Nimalika happened to inquire about free and open source approaches and MapServer and PostGIS as tools were the starting point of her GIS journey to learn web GIS. Her link with FOSS GIS continued ever since and she had started teaching what she had learned by experience and advocating the value of open source GIS to Sri Lankan community.

She designed and delivered a module on web –GIS with Map Server in 2008 for postgraduate students at Postgraduate Institute of science , Peradeniya by invitation of the MSc course coordinator, Dr. Jagath Goonathilake , who had taken a very challenging decision that time to introduce open source GIS to his students , in a background where nobody have heard about such options available. This module has opened Sri Lankan GIS professionals to open source GIS, a very new domain in Sri Lanka then and now it has become an established module where she still continue to be a teaching panel member.

In 2009, she introduced a “Geographic Information Systems” module as an elective to undergraduate students of Faculty of IT, University of Moratuwa. The same module was introduced to Faculty of Computing, SLIIT in 2011 with more practical components. Both these modules provide a unique opportunity to Sri Lankan undergraduates having IT background to learn and experience geospatial domain.

In 2014, the first Sri Lankan free and open source community gathering, FOSS4G Sri Lanka 2014 was organized by Nimalika and her team (Dr. Yann, Aruna of UOM and FOSS community of SLIIT) which brings together GIS enthusiasts of Sri Lanka ,including some very new to FOSS GIS. (http://foss4gsrilanka.lk/ )

She has being mentoring and conducting guest lectures and seminars on open source GIS for Sri Lankan university students and public servants travelling around the country. She teaches tools such as MapServer, QGIS , PostGIS and OSM mapping to Sri Lankan community. She has being participating at GIS events worldwide and was presenting at FOSS4G 2009 Sydney, FOSS4G Asis 2014 Bangkok and FOSS4G 2015 Seoul. She assisted in organizing FOSS4G Asia 2014 Bangkok and Asia Special Track of FOSS4G 2015 Seoul.

At SLIIT she acted as the advisor of Rotaract Club of SLIIT, FOSS Community of SLIIT , leader of the Geoinformatics & LBS research group and acted as a student counsellor from 2012 onwards.

Her biography is at https://lk.linkedin.com/in/nimalika-fernando-53b82813

Nimalika also kindly send updates on OSGeo Lab of SLIIT which is summarized below

In February 2014, OSGeo lab of SLIIT was initiated as the second OSGeo lab of Sri Lanka with Nimalika as the contact point. (http://lists.osgeo.org/pipermail/announce/2014-February/000249.html)

It was Dr. Yann Chamin who motivated to initiate the lab, who was introduced to Nimalika by Vivien Deparday, a keen GIS developer who regularly visit Sri Lanka and always keen in linking Sri Lankan community with the world community. The lab marked a milestone for GIS teaching and learning of SLIIT students and the whole community.

Some remarks of the OSGeo lab of SLIIT and outcomes

  • An elective module , GIS is offered to SLIIT final year IT students via the lab , which became a very successful module where students are introduced to GIS concepts and tools. Many of them use the skills in their final year projects and professional life.
  • Lab act as a contact point for other Sri Lankan universities and community to get support and resources
  • OSGeo lab of SLIIT acted as the core organizer, providing venue and all logistics support for FOSS4G Sri Lanka 2014
  • A team of SLIIT students has won the best student presentation at the FOSS 4G 2016, Seoul for their presentation “Landmark Based Path Planning and Linear Path Generation for Mobile Map Applications.” ( News Article : http://www.directionsmag.com/entry/reflections-on-foss4g-seoul-2015/455554 )

They were trying to apply the local and personal context to land mark based path planning and developed a novel method for path planning using a weighted model. OSM data were used for the application.

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SLIIT Students Pasundu Chandrasekara & Thejaka Mahaulpatha receiving the award at FOSS4G 2015 

  • OSGeo Lab of SLIIT links students to industry opportunities. Until now two students of SLIIT had obtained valuable internships for GIS Programming in World Bank projects in Sri Lanka. The experience they obtain via this would be remarkable as they work directly under the supervision of core developers from the team. They work related to GeoNode based application development.

 Some activities organized by the lab

  • We organized seminars to introduce new technologies and to link students ( Open data for resilience -2014, Geo-social Intelligence to aid Disaster Response -2015)
  • A workshop to celebrate the world geography awareness week is organized by the lab in 19th November 2016, linking with OSM Geography awareness week.

Poster  used for OSM workshop

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Photos from the OSM Workshop

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Photos from the OSM workshop : Mr. Sudakarna fom GFDRR Project assisted as a resource person

 

  • As an immediate response to heavy floods occurred in Sri Lanka in May 2016, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) organized global mapping events to map flood affected areas. SLIIT OSGeo lab also took part of this and organized a Mapathon to support flood on 21st of May 2016. This was a unique event, organized within a day while the university is blocked by floods.

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A photo from the Flood mapping event

 

( Link can be found here : https://www.mapbox.com/blog/relationships-tools-response/ )

Geo for All is a worldwide movement that provides immediate benefit to the world. We aim to create openness in Geo Education for developing creative and open minds in students which is critical for building open innovation and contributes to building up Open Knowledge for the benefit of the whole society and for our future generations. We are proud to honour Nimalika as our GeoAmbassador and we are extremely grateful for her contributions to Geo for All.

Best wishes,

Suchith Anand

 

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