Nimalika Fernando - Research student at Curtin University

Travel Grant Interviews

Nimalika is one of our Travel Grant Receipients. We owe thanks to OSGeo for their financial support and advice which made the Travel Grant Program possible.

How did you first become involved in the geospatial community?

I was seeking for an interesting project idea while doing my studies way back in 2006 in Sri Lanka. We were still recovering from 2004 Tsunami disaster and there was a huge need to manage post-disaster recovery, linking many organisations and communities. One of my colleague suggested to investigate about web based maps and a web-GIS based application to support local communities was finally developed and it was the beginning of my self-started geo-spatial Journey. I started from zero background in mapping or GIS yet I felt love with MapServer /PostGIS, open source initiatives and continue with working with open data as well, learning and sharing what I learned in my community eventually.

How would you describe the reputation of open source software in your area?

I am originally from Sri Lanka though I moved to Perth recently.  Sorry - I am not having much understanding about open source GIS activities here in Perth. I know my colleagues in  the university are using OSM & QGIS. Related to Sri Lanka, now it is gaining interest and government and community organisations are looking it as an alternative to well-established proprietary tools which incur huge cost. OSM is gaining high acceptances and most of the roads are covered by local communities. Disaster management related organisations are using open source software for developing their applications as well.

What geospatial tools do you rely on?

QGIS, PostGIS, Mapserver / Geoserver  etc , now recently trying to use JOSM Indoor plugins & Vespucci, + indoorGML editor In-editor.

What trends or future applications are you most excited by in the geospatial industry?

I love geoenabled AR, AI and smart cities ideas also.. Wish to see applications to support humanity whether its AR or AI or Smart Cities or any other tool. I am fascinated by what crowd-sourcing data can do and wish to see diverse communities engaged and benefited from those too. Can spatial AI identify the spatial patterns in life threatening diseases, or can smart cities initiatives improve well-being of diverse groups of people in cities across the world, I wonder.

What are the most important steps you believe the community can take to improve its diversity?

1. Diversity is cool and give strength to the community once we learned to appropriate so be a community who appreciate diversity and let it be visible and let the voice of diverse groups be heard also.

2. Differences in any background compared to majority would make people feel uncomfortable naturally and would have restrictions also which may not known to masses directly.. Attempts to understand these restrictions and welcome people while acknowledging all differences would be a major step, I believe.

If you had to eat one thing for the rest of the year, what would it be?

Peanuts for sure.

Is there anything else you’d like to share (thoughts, projects, software)?

I really appropriate the background work all of you are doing related to this conference. I learned a lot , looking at how you organize this event, just by following  the online updates etc. I have never came across such welcoming, friendly attitude in even other FOSS4G events - though they are also very friendly and welcoming indeed you people have manged to show it strongly ! (Hope it would be same at the conference itself smiley)

It is wonderful to be part of this great community. FOSS4G is all about community strength and I am sure that I would not be able to do any GIS related work I am doing now if not the marvelous support and inspiration of the community around the world.  Wish to say a big thank you and good luck for all of you!