The use of open source software solutions has made it easier for land survey organisations in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden to work together, according to Jani Kylmäaho and Jari Reini, from the National Land Survey of Finland. These organisations are now starting to co-develop software, using Github to work on a visualisation editor for web map layers (styled layer descriptor, SLD).
This SLD editor will be developed by the Finnish land survey and Sweden's Lantmäteriet, with support from Norway's Kartverket and Denmark's Geodatastyrelsen. Their Initial work - topographic map background data and SLD presentations - is made available on Github, under the Creative Commons licence.
The editor is developed as part of the European Location Framework (ELF), a EU co-funded project that aims to "provide up-to-date, authoritative, interoperable, cross-border, reference geo-information for use by the European public and private sectors."
Joint open source development is one of the aims of the Nordic Open Source Initiative Network (NOSIN), a network started by the Nordic land surveys in 2010. The group began with sharing the national spatial information catalogues. The surveys in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden were all considering to using GeoNetwork Opensource as their catalogue application, and through NOSIN they contacted the Dutch and Scottish government's land registers, which are also developing solutions based on GeoNetwork Opensource.
In NOSIN the land surveys also test joint projects, share download services and work on OpenSearch. The group members also exchange ideas on solutions for authentication and authorisation, and discuss potential new tools, including Oskari, a browser based geographic map display solution.
The start of work on the SLD editor was announced by Jani Kylmäaho, speaking at the Inspire conference, which took place in the Danish city of Ålborg from 16 to 20 June.
According to the spatial data expert, the NOSIN group is also now considering implementing open source solutions for instant messaging, to boost collaboration. He hopes this will help the group figure out how to handle joint procurement and purchase agreements, with some aspects of software development being outsourced.
The biggest advantages of using open source include getting rid of IT vendor lock-in, Kylmäaho said in Ålborg. Being able to contribute to the project speeds up development, bugs get fixed faster and improvements are quickly shared. "The community of an established project is constantly improving the software."
Switching to open source requires public administrations to assess the maturity and size of these communities. He recommends building close ties and not carrying out development in isolation. "If you do further developments to the software without integrating into the main project, there is extra work involved in keeping up with main version releases", he said.