Free and Open Source Software solutions in GIS

Free and Open Source Software solutions in GIS


Venkatesh Raghavan
Osaka City University
Osaka, Japan
[email protected]

Shinji Masumoto
Osaka City University
UN Bldg.

David Hastings
United Nations Economic and Social Commission
Asia and the Pacific
Rajadamnern Nok Avenue
Bangkok, Thailand

FOSS has gained the attention of many innovators in the Geoinformatics community, for its opportunities for implementing and managing spatial data infrastructures. Several FOSS Geoinformatics packages are available for off-the-shelf use, or tailoring for a variety of needs

Over the last decade, many Geoinformatics technologies have evolved to fully operational status. They are being used, and have additional potential, to support social and humanitarian needs. Geoinformatics technologies for building and delivering geo-referenced information over computer and communication networks can provide much-needed conduits for bringing benefits of spatial data and information to a wider audience.

Regions that stand to immensely benefit from such technologies nevertheless face several technical, cost and manpower constraints. FOSS has gained the attention of the Geoinformatics community and created new opportunities for implementing spatial data infrastructures. Whether as a means (1) for economizing compared to expensive proprietary closed-source software licensing and maintenance arrangements, (2) for knowing exactly what your software is doing (by directly inspecting the source code), (3) for teaching software development at a university by working on open-source code, or (4) for running a business developing and customizing software rather than just teaching how to make a map, FOSS may be part of your solution. Several current FOSS can be tailored to develop, manipulate, assess and map spatial databases.

Free and Open Source Software
Free and Open SourceSoftware (FOSS) and initiatives have become increasingly popular and dynamic over the past decade. They protect intellectual property through copyright, yet foster sharing, distributed development, bug-fixing, training, support, customization, etc. While some people try to differentiate between “free software” ( and “open source software” (, FOSS in this paper refers primarily to software whose source code is openly accessible, whose ownership may be copyright but which includes collaborative development and/or adoption. FOSS has become a leading environment for operating systems, Web servers, Web browsers, and other applications. Many currently popular proprietary capabilities (e.g. many projection change routines) and packages (e.g. ERDAS , Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator) owe their existence to predecessor open-source software efforts/packages.