We were fortunate to have a guest lecture presented to the students of the Geographic Information Management (GIM) and Environmental Informatics (EI) MSc courses by Chris Emberson, Managing Director of Innovation Mapping (http://www.innovation-mapping.com/). Chris covered some of his practical experiences in putting web mapping into practice, and particularly touched on the use of open source mapping techniques in doing this.
Chris was able to share work he conducts on behalf of the United Nations, drawing up assessments across Asia and the Pacific of the uptake and distribution of fibre broadband and its rollout. Of particular interest to the students was his description of the design of the technical framework used to meet the project brief. Chris outlined the use of Linux-based computers to host web servers and geo-data servers, and the open source back office geospatial databases developed in PostgreSQL and PostGIS. He described the enormous task of capturing in digital format the locations of the fibre backbone of the Internet across the countries in this study area, and how these data are loaded into the ITU database and backed up. Open source tools were discussed for providing the mapping capabilities the project offers – including OpenLayers, UTF Grid, Mapnik tilesets, KML superoverlay creation, and geoprocessing automation via shell scripting. Also outlined was the validation processes in place to aid the stakeholder data update process. The whole presentation was followed by a live demonstration of the system at http://www.itu.int/itu-d/tnd-map-public/.