Archive for January, 2008

Interoperability is something South Africans are going to be learning a lot about during the course of 2008. Generally interoperability refers to the ability of diverse systems and organisations to work together. A classic example is the decision in July last year by the US and the EU to jointly adopt and provide an improved interoperable design for their respective global navigation satellite system (GNSS) signals.

As a result future civilian users will enjoy the benefits of multiple GNSS constellations providing greater signal availability and coverage around the world. There will also be enhanced commercial opportunities for the development of new GNSS products and services. In addition manufacturers and product designers have been given sufficient time to ensure that new products will meet the needs of users around the world.

This is a case of well-planned, thought-out interoperability in action.

The national electricity crisis, which resulted in an abundance of “load shedding” and the temporary closure of our underground mines, is going to force us into making use of alternative energy sources. There is nothing wrong with doing this. What is unacceptable though, is the lack of national planning which has led to many South African businesses and citizens making hasty decisions regarding which alternative energy sources to use.

While we deal with our national electricity crisis during the course of 2008, the GIS community needs to make the most of an opportunity to enable a well-planned and thought-out interoperability solution to take place.

In February 2007 the government approved a policy and strategy for the implementation of free and open source software in government.  The policy calls for the South African government to implement free and open source software (FOSS) unless proprietary software is demonstrated to be significantly superior.

Despite this policy there is no getting away from the fact that there will still be a place for proprietary software in South Africa. This fact and the very nature of FOSS are going to see GIS practitioners in South Africa grappling with issues of interoperability between FOSS and proprietary software over the coming years.

Fortunately assistance is at hand in the form of the 2008 Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial Conference that will be held from 29 September to 3 October 2008 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

If we are to get to grips with the interoperability of various open source and proprietary systems, South Africa’s GIS community needs to be there, taking advantage of the debate and discussion among and between the FOSS and proprietary communities.  We need to make the most of this opportunity to ensure that the implementation of open source software in South Africa is a smooth well thought-out process, and that issues of interoperability are dealt with in advance, rather than after the fact.



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