"..enhancing the use of geospatial technologies in agriculture.." an interview with Dr.Suchith Anand from "Geo for All" initiative

AIMS team met Dr Suchith Anand during the Berlin 11 Open Access Conference and he agreed to share with the Agricultural Information Management Standards community about developments in open access to Geospatial resources and projects for developing countries under the "Geo for All" projects. 

1. Kindly tell us briefly about yourself and work that you are doing on Open Access and  Geospatial resources?

My name is Suchith Anand and I am the chair of the ICA Commission on Open Source Geospatial Technologies . I am involved in the "Geo for All" initiative with the aim to make geospatial education and opportunities accessible to all. This is a joint initiative of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo)  and the International Cartographic Association (ICA). OSGeo is a not-for-profit organisation founded in 2006 whose mission is to support and promote the collaborative development of open source geospatial technologies and data. ICA is the world authoritative body for cartography and GIScience. I am also involved in Open Access initiatives through the ELOGeo initiative  by establishing an infrastructure and a community for sharing and disseminating knowledge of emerging open source geospatial software, data and standards.

2. FAO AIMS team supports interoperability and Openness to agricultural research data and information. One way we are seeking to integrate different research outputs related to agriculture, concerning Geospatial resources what will be your advice?

Mobile broadband networks, location-based technologies, sensor-web technologies and cloud computing offer the potentials to develop location independent, sustainable living and to provide flexible and low cost information and services networks, linking individuals and communities in a scale that transcends national boundaries. Rapid developments in positioning, broad-band mobile communications, sensor platforms, sensor-web enablement, spatial search and pervasive computing fundamentally change the access to and use of location-based data for agriculture.  However, the necessary multi-disciplinary approach needed to transform raw data and information into useful intelligence and knowledge for scientists is still constrained by disciplinary and organisational silo's and legacy concepts.  Geospatial interoperability and open source standards-based GIS will help deliver holistic solutions in geospatial technologies in AgriGIS by enabling the ready integration of separate location relevant technologies and lowering costs. The expanding range of open source GIS tools will greatly enhance the use of geospatial technologies in agriculture and facilitates the sharing of information across various stakeholders and collaborative work.

ELOGeo platform and learning materials are open to all those who are interested. Openness is the key element in all aspects of this initiative. Not only is the subject is about open geospatial but also the access to the materials is open to public under open licenses, and even the framework itself is developed in open source platforms.

3. We also seek to ensure that FAO member countries and communities in agriculture in developing countries are able to collect and utilise different research outputs, in your opinion what models can you recommend in ensuring of creation and full utilisation of Geospatial resources?

Capacity Building and Training in the latest geospatial technologies is key for staff and students in developing countries to take advantage of the technological innovations in AgriGIS. While there has been tremendous growth in geospatial technology over the last few decades, the number of universities offering courses in geospatial science has not kept pace. Free and open geographic information (GI) software helps make geospatial education available to students from economically poor backgrounds worldwide (removing the need for high cost proprietary GI software). Our key aim is to make it possible for students in developing and poor countries to be also able to get geospatial education. This initiative will bring more opportunities for geospatial education worldwide. Over 50 Open Source Geospatial Labs have already been established in universities around the world as part of the "Geo for All" initiative in just two year's time, and we will be establishing over 100 research labs worldwide by September 2014.

We welcome FAO member countries and communities to be part of the "Geo for All" initiative and establish Open Source Geospatial labs and further develop research and teaching in Open Standards, Open Data and Open Source Geospatial tools in Agriculture