Southeastern Europe and Interoperability

In recent weeks I have been travelling a lot and today I want to share with you some of the experiences I had during my visit to the Croatian National SDI Conference in Zagreb and the final symposium of the EU funded OBSERVE project – both with a focus on Eastern Europe and the Balkan countries.

Zagreb, Croatia

In Croatia I keynoted at the 4th National SDI Conference in Zagreb, organized by an OGC member, the State Geodesy Agency of Croatia. Just days before, there was an INSPIRATION workshop on Spatial Data Infrastructure in the Western Balkans. We witnessed demonstrations of the excellent solutions Western Balkan countries have developed in setting up their national SDIs to follow the INSPIRE Directive. The INSPIRE Directive aims at creating a European Union spatial data infrastructure that will enable the sharing of environmental spatial information among public sector organisations and better facilitate public access to spatial information across Europe.

I spoke mainly about processes within the OGC and how OGC members can benefit from participation in the Consortium. (As a side note: Earlier this year OGC published a Market Report on "Open Standards and INSPIRE", which I highly recommend that you download and read if you have to deal with interoperability issues, SDIs, INSPIRE and open standards in general.)

All of the National SDI Conference presentations, which described the SDI approaches in each Western Balkan country, and a summary of the SDI Days event are available online.

Thessaloniki, Greece

The second event brought me to Thessaloniki, Greece by invitation of the EU funded project OBSERVE - Earth Observation on the Balkans

As member of the Advisory Board I have followed the project over many months. Part of the OBSERVE project was a competition for young researchers, which was won by Ms Irena Rojko from the University of Ljubljana.

She used OGC netCDF standards for her analysis of correlation between precipitation and PM10 mass concentration. Other findings of the project were very nicely summarized by Gottfried Schwarz from DLR, the German Aerospace Center, who encouraged organisations to use open standards and participate in international organizations. All presentations are available on the event website.

Summarizing, I would just say that OGC standards are used in many different applications involving a variety of interoperability approaches and "sticking to open standards is the way forward," as I have been assured. Nonetheless there is a lack of active participation by Balkan region experts in international standards development processes like those of the OGC. This results in lost opportunities for players (government, industry and academic sector alike) in the region, as they are not taking advantage of the opportunity to get directly involved in standards development and raising their requirements. Those organizations active in the OGC are leaders in their region and provide an important channel of communication between the region and the Consortium.

At OGC we would like to learn more about the needs and requirements of the Balkan region. With Ulrich Boes living in Bulgaria, we luckily have a knowledgeable person from the region who is actively participating in OGC's Global Advisory council. Together with our members, we plan some activities in the coming year - so watch the OGC Events list http://www.opengeospatial/event and get involved!