Invitation to NASA Europa Challenge 2017 – Solutions For Sustainable Cities

On behalf of GeoForAll, we would like to welcome strong global participation for the fifth edition of the NASA Europa challenge. The aim of this challenge is to inspire ideas for building great applications that serves the INSPIRE Directive and uses NASA’s open source virtual globe technology World Wind.


This NASA challenge attracts the best minds to develop their ideas covering a broad range of domains from transportation to air quality to linked data. The previous competition winners work is available at

We thank Patrick Hogan (NASA) and Professor Maria Brovelli (Politecnico di Milano, Italy) and  for their efforts for this initiative which adds great momentum to our efforts to promote openness in education and research worldwide. The Europa Challenge has always had Europe’s INSPIRE Directive to guide project development. This year we continue to have INSPIRE guide us and more specifically, we are looking for solutions specific to urban management. The CitySmart Europa Challenge is challenging the world’s *best and brightest* to deliver sustainable solutions serving city needs.

Almost every city needs the same data management tools as every other city. How can we help cities work together to be more sustainable, more livable and more resilient? If cities were able to share their solutions with each other, this would multiply their investment by the number of cities participating. Each city could develop different functionalities and then ‘share’ these with each other, massively increasing our planet’s collective productivity.

Simply build a great application that serves some aspect of the OpenCitySmart (1, 2) design and uses NASA’s open source virtual globe technology, WebWorldWind. Whether you win or not, you will advance a platform that allows every city to win! This challenge is open to all on our home planet. See the 2015 Projects, 2014 Projects and 2013 Projects. China had top teams these past two years, India had an excellent team in previous year and Italy every year! A USA High School team from Alaska won First Place in 2015! So students and SMEs are welcome to join the competition this year.

This year’s Europa Challenge is an excellent opportunity for the global community to begin working in collaboration and prepare for the increasing climate change scenarios in cities context. Students are our future and looking at previous year’s contributions from Global Earthquake forecasts systems (developed by some high school students from Alaska who went on to win the first prize in 2015 and 2016!) to Urban Traffic Visual Analytics Simulator , it just shows the amazing contributions of these students and SMEs made for the global good and for the benefit of all.

Details at and overview video at

Those interested in being part of this global enterprise, please subscribe here . Your participation is very welcome.

We look forward to your strong participation for the NASA CitySmart Challenge 2017 and joining our mission to make geospatial education and opportunities available for all.

Best wishes,

Suchith Anand



GeoAmbassador – Dr. Mark Ware (University of South Wales, UK )

On behalf of GeoForAll and the Open Source Geospatial Foundation, it is my great pleasure to introduce Dr. Mark Ware of the University of South Wales, UK as our GeoAmbassador. Mark is a Reader in GIS at the University of South Wales, United Kingdom. His research interests include automated map generalization, GIS-based optimization algorithms, GIS for disaster management, spatial data structures and Open Source GIS. He has studied, researched and worked in GIS since 1989. During that time, he has been involved in many GIS teaching, research and consultancy projects with partners that include BECTA, Ordnance Survey, BGS, MULRI, Environment Agency, West Coast Energy and Admiral. Mark regularly present research results in the academic literature and enjoy attending and presenting at conferences.












University of South Wales (previously the University of Glamorgan) has been active in the fields of GIS education and research for over 30 years. Most of this activity is carried out by the university’s GIS Research Unit (, which is currently led by Prof Gary Higgs. The unit has always been based in a computing department – currently it is part of the School of Computing and Mathematics. This has meant that much of its teaching and research has looked at GIS from a computing perspective. Mark was key lead in helping establish the first Open Source Geospatial lab in Wales as in November 2013 the unit joined GeoForAll and it became the first Open Source Geospatial lab in Wales.

Mark Ware provided the following updates on FOSS GIS and Teaching at USW

“GIS is taught at both undergraduate and post-graduate level; USW is proud to have delivered one of the UK’s first Masters programme dedicated fully to GIS. Traditionally, our teaching has made extensive use of proprietary software. While still using this software on some of our modules, in recent years FOSS has played a significant role in our delivery. At undergraduate level, QGIS is used extensively as a means of introducing first-year mainstream computing students to the world of GIS. The fact that the software is readily and freely available for download and installation make it an attractive option. Students almost always like the subject – we try our best to make their studies as interesting and relevant as possible. This is achieved by emphasising the computing aspects (such as discussing underlying algorithms, talking about and demonstrating the ability to create plugins, and emphasising good data modelling and design) and by the use of data sets and example applications that are local (this is facilitated to a large extent by access to open data products such as OSM and Second and third year students have dedicated modules in which they can learn about spatial databases (PostgresSQL/PostGIS) and web mapping (GeoServer, OpenLayers and Leaflet); the emphasis here is on the design, implementation, deployment and administration of systems, rather than simply their use and application. Our post-graduate teaching places more importance on the applications of GIS, with modules often being taken by students from courses in other academic subject areas (including geography, environmental studies and BIM); QGIS is again the primary software used. The group also has experience of delivering short courses in GIS to local businesses and organisations. The most recent of these, which took place at USW in June 2016, was a free Introduction to GIS course. This was organised and sponsored by WISERD ( and focused on the use of QGIS and freely available socio-economic data sets.

USW has a strong-track record in GIS research, with notable success in various areas, including: automated cartographic design (map generalization and label placement), terrain modelling, data compression, accessibility modelling and population estimation modelling. Here are some examples of some of our more recent projects, each of which involves the development or application of open-source solutions:

One of the first FOSS projects undertaken at USW involved the design and implementation an online geoportal, the main function of which is to enhance the ability of researchers to search for and find socio-economic research data relating to Wales. The aim is to encourage collaborative research and re-use of data. This work was carried out as part of our involvement with The Wales Institute of Socio-Economic Research, Data and Methods ( The portal was built using various open-source technologies, including PostgresSQL, PostGIS, GeoServer, Apache, OpenLayers and GeoExt. It was developed by Dr Richard Fry (now at Swansea University, UK) and Dr Rob Berry (now at the Countryside and Community Research Institute, UK).

A recently completed project1 has considered ways of improving crowdsourced mapping in developing countries (particularly in East Africa) for the purposes of disaster preparedness. In many developing countries, maps of vulnerable region tend to be low resolution and/or not up to date. There are many examples of crowdsourced mapping initiatives that have taken place after a disaster has occured, but the geographic information becomes available perhaps days or weeks later. By populating digitals map before a potential disaster, various advantages may be gained, including the information being available at the outset of disaster response. The project focused specifically on the Mbale region of Uganda, with which USW has close links. At the beginning of the study, the region was poorly mapped. Early in the project, its main investigator, Dr Dave Farthing, ran several courses in Mbale to train locals in the use of GIS and GPS for data gathering and data analysis (see image below). The project identified competing factors that either inspire/discourage communities to/from adopting and using mapping technologies. The main output from the project is a new model (called the TASUT model) for encouraging technology acceptance and sustained use in the context of digital mapping in developing countries, together with an accompanying set of detailed guidelines for its application. These guidelines suggest (along with many other things) that appropriate training, the use of free open-source GIS, the adoption of standard data formats and making GI available under an open or Creative Commons license are all key to promoting the initial acceptance and then sustained use of mapping technologies. The hope is that we can make apply, and further develop, the TASUT model and its guidelines in future mapping/GIS projects – please get in touch if you are interested in collaborating!


A soon to be completed PhD project (being undertaken by Jon Britton and supervised by Dave Kidner) has considered the problem of spatial data processing on the web using open standards and open source software. To date the work has produced a detailed specification for a generic web-based GIS client application able to access data and processes provided by standard geospatial services. This specification has been used to develop a prototype browser-based GIS application based on existing open-source software. The prototype, named SmartWPS, can integrate data from standard sources, such as WFS, WCS and WMS, and process this data using remote WPS. ”

Geo for All is committed to work towards the vision of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for building a better world for everyone [1]. Open Education is the simple and powerful idea that the world’s knowledge is a public good and that technology in general and the internet in particular provide an extraordinary opportunity for everyone to share, use, and reuse knowledge. Openness is key for true empowerment and sustainability [2].

We are proud to honour Mark as our GeoAmbassador and we are extremely grateful for his contributions to Geo For All.

Best wishes,


Dr. Suchith Anand

GeoForAll – Building and expanding Open Geospatial Science



1 David W. Farthing, 2015, “Theory of Acceptance and Sustained Use of Technology: A technology acceptance model adapted in the context of digital mapping for disaster preparedness in East Africa”, PhD Thesis, available from the University of South Wales (soon to be available from the British Library)

“GeoForAll” Lab of the Month – Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi , USA

Dear Colleagues,

On behalf of GeoForAll and the Open Source Geospatial Foundation let me take this opportunity to wish you and your families a very Happy New Year 2017 [1] and a successful year ahead. It is also my great pleasure, to introduce our colleagues at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi , USA as our “GeoForAll” lab of this month in the New Year.

The Spatial {Query} Lab [2] at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi [3] has a mission of making spatial technology, education, and information accessible to everyone. A large part of meeting this mission is the continued development and maintenance of the GeoAcademy curriculum (




Richard Smith (Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator of GISc/GSEN) said “Over the past several months, we have been working to update the labs to match the latest versions of QGIS, GRASS, and Inkscape, as well as releasing related lecture materials. Combined, the GeoAcademy curriculum offers five college-level courses of content, all Creative Commons licensed and freely available to all who wish to use it. As an example of recent use, the GeoAcademy curriculum is being used as the inaugural curriculum for the UN Open GIS Initiative where we are currently teaching our third cohort of students and will be teaching the fourth and final cohort starting in December. Students at the Spatial {Query} Lab worked hard to get the curriculum updated to QGIS 2.14 for the course and are thrilled that their work is having an immediate benefit and being used by the UN Open GIS Initiative. The beauty of maintaining this type of open curriculum is seeing its adoption, use, and collaborations that are taking place. Another project we are working on at the Spatial {Query} Lab is our map scanning project ( where we are scanning, cataloging, transcribing, and rectifying tens of thousands of historic maps from South Texas (we occasionally blog about interesting things we find as we scan them at:



We will begin publishing this collection online to the public, for free, starting in Spring 2017. Something we are particularly proud of is the software we wrote to operationalize our scanning project, BandoCat, has been so useful to us, and, as we have demonstrated it to others, looks to be potentially useful for them, we are going to be open sourcing the BandoCat software beginning in Spring 2017 in the hopes that it can be useful to others who are looking at digitizing hard copy maps and documents.” Thank you Richard for these excellent updates from your lab. This is truly amazing work you and colleagues are doing…



On behalf of the GeoForAll community, we thank Richard Smith and all colleagues the Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi , USA for their help and for their contributions to the GeoForAll initiative and look forward to working and building more collaborations with all interested on this education mission. We believe in empowering people with spatial decision making tools to help build a better society for all of humanity. Open principles in geoeducation (open educational resources, free and open software, open data, open standards etc) are key for  true empowerment of staff and students globally and making geospatial education and opportunities accessible to all . Access to quality education and opportunities is key for getting rid of extreme poverty and enabling broadly shared prosperity for all.

Millions of globally connected minds working together on the common mission of enabling Open Education opportunities for everyone will be key for making these developments possible. An idea whose time has come is the most powerful force in the universe, and the time for “Access to quality education opportunities for everyone” has arrived. We look forward to working and building collaborations with all interested in this education mission.

Happy Year of Open 2017 …






Best wishes,

Suchith Anand




Summary of the workshop on Advancing GIScience with Open Source Technologies

The ICA Commission on Open Source Geospatial Technologies held a very well-attended, successful one-day workshop on Advancing GIScience with Open Source Technologies the day before the start of Auto Carto. The agenda consisted of seven invited speakers and an open discussion session. The Chair of the commission, Silvana Camboim, opened the presentations and led the discussion. The Vice-Chair, Michael P. Finn, organized the workshop and served as the moderator. Summary of the workshop on Advancing GIScience with Open Source Technologies are at

Happy Year of Open 2017

Happy New Year 2017.  On behalf of GeoForAll community , we are very excited to support the Year of Open  2017 and looking forward to work with you all on expanding Open Education worldwide.








15 years ago the term “Open Educational Resources” was created, the Budapest Open Access Initiative was launched, and the first Creative Commons licenses were released;

10 years ago the Cape Town Open Education Declaration was written;

5 years ago the first Open Education Week took place and the first OER World Congress was held, resulting in the Paris OER Declaration.

2017 is a great year to celebrate our achievements while making even more people aware of the benefits of openness. That’s why we’re calling 2017 the Year of Open, and we want the global open community to lead the way. Here’s how:

*   Use promotional materials . The more people see the Year of Open logo, the more they will want to find out what it’s about.

*   Get the word out about open. Write blog posts, op-eds, articles; make videos; hold discussions with new audiences. Let everyone know you support open by using the #yearofopen hashtag.

*   Participate in Open Education Week – let’s make this the biggest and best one yet. Open Education Week is one of the key activities for open education globally, with online and locally hosted events around the world.  Get ideas on the website, and let us know what you’re doing so it will appear on the Open Education Week events calendar.

The Year of Open is not just for open education; we encourage our colleagues working in other areas of open to join with us. Look for more information in the coming few weeks, and the official launch on 1.17.17.

Access to quality education opportunities is everyone’s birthright. Open principles  in education (open educational resources , open standards, free and open software, open access to research publications) are key to lower entry barriers and make sure there is no digital divide etc. Open principles  in education are key for breaking down the artificial barriers and rapidly bringing down the walls of digital divide.  Caring and sharing are important values in education  .

Education and empowerment are key for getting rid of extreme poverty and help create digital economy opportunities also for billions of our economically poor brothers and sisters across our planet .  Education and empowerment of students are also key 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.So let us all  join efforts and  work together to enable open principles in education to help create a world that is more accessible, equitable and full of innovation and opportunities for everyone.

Details of why this is important at

Wishing everyone  Happy New Year 2017…

Best wishes,


Dr. Suchith Anand

GeoForAll – Building and expanding Open Geospatial Science