Croatia’s Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection has become one of the country’s major users of open source solutions. The software is making possible two geospatial service platforms on biodiversity and environmental protection built for the State Institute for Nature Protection. The two systems were unveiled in May.
The use of open source was not a requirement, but this type of software proved to be the most suitable, explains a spokesperson for IN2, the ICT service provider that built the two geographic information systems. “The ministry had highlighted in its request that it would prefer ICT solutions that would enable scaling the project without incurring new licence costs. Using open source software also prevents IT vendor lock-in, avoids proprietary licence restrictions and lowers costs.”
The project makes available online existing spatial datasets. The data model is compliant to the European Union’s Inspire Directive on environmental policies. “We rebuilt the GIS infrastructure for the State Institute for Nature Protection”, the spokesperson told the Open Source Observatory and Repository.
The two new GIS platforms reduces the agency’s dependency on proprietary GIS solutions, that - according to the IN2 spokesperson, are “expensive to maintain”.
Open and free
One of the two platforms is publicly accessible. The Bioportal offers access to information on biodiversity, habitat maps, protected areas and species distribution.
All of the datasets on Bioportal can be reused in other GIS systems, the spokesperson says. “Sharing spatial data online is a key aspect.” Previously, interested citizens and organisations had to visit the agency for nature protection, and in some cases had to pay fees. “Now the data can be browsed online, for free.”
The other GIS portal is meant for internal use by the Croatian government. The GIS system provides access to all institutions, helping them to maintain and update their data and making it easy to share and exchange information. The internal system maintains the spatial representation of Croatia’s natural reserves, its parks and protected areas. “This platform replaces an expensive earlier system that required a great many proprietary software licences”, emphasises the IN2 spokesperson.
The two GIS systems were built combining many well-known open source solutions. Components include content management system Drupal, database management system Postgresql, and GIS tools such as Geoserver and OpenLayers. The two also use GIS solutions for spatial databases and tools and services for management of the system and the web services. The two portals run the Apache Tomcat Java application server, use load balancer Haproxy and all servers run on the Linux operating system.
The developers made a number of modifications to the open source software. For example, they added new controls to OpenLayers and modified the Geoserver code. “These will be contributed to the upstream projects”, promises the firm’s spokesperson. “We still have to tidy up the code, before we can commit it upstream.” The firm is working on plans to allow developers to contribute a few hours per week to these and other open source projects.
World Bank project
The HRK 900,000 (about EUR 118,500) Bioportal is partly funded by the "EU Natura 2000 Integration Project". This World Bank project supports public nature reserves in Croatia and helps the country implement the EU Habitat Directive.