Assignment: finding Oskari

I’m writing this under an apple tree and somehow it came to me to badly quote a Finnish singer songwriter: “Oh where, where are you Oskari?” (Missä, missä se Väinö on? - J. Karjalainen, Electric Sauna 1996).

This is my aim and assignment: to find out how Oskari is used and where.

In open source projects it is sometimes quite hard to track where and how some bits of code have evolved. This being the beauty of OS solutions - and also horrible task for communication managers.

Oskari is a open source solution for setting up geoportals and it has originated from public sector own needs and development, which it is quite rare in the OS world.

I’m to find out how has business sector started to provide services on top of Oskari. And what kind of tailoring has been made in the public sector in order to fit Oskari into their specific needs? I have an inkling that this story is going to have sequels.

My own initial vision back in the day was that Oskari is a software for gathering different geospatial interfaces together and for creating viewing services for the public to check out what kinds of geodata there is available. Also INSPIRE compatibility might be of interest to people creating geoportals. I for example use Paikkatietoikkuna (the first Oskari based service and Finnish national geoportal) almost solely to find out what kind of data there is nationally available (and also who produces these and where can I get a hold of them).

But is Oskari merely so “basic”?

One has to bear in mind that Oskari is not similar open source software like for example QGIS (for analysing GIS data) or GeoServer (for creating OGC compatible interfaces). Oskari has grown into a quite complex set-up of different open source software packages compiled into one big possibility of things.

So this brings forth also a variety of solutions built on top of Oskari-installation.

"Oskari has grown into a quite complex set-up of different open source software packages compiled into one big possibility of things."

Your geospatial friend

What are the best parts of Oskari? Let’s ask the people behind these solutions.

What say you Marko Kauppi from Ubigu Ltd (a quite new company with ambition to create spatial data-analytic services to the market), how has Ubigu thought of utilizing Oskari and in which situations would you recommend using it?

“Oskari platform can be implemented for small and large map needs if the organization has an Oskari platform available. If the organization does not have an Oskari and the need is to create a simple map application, it may be a better option to go for some other lighter solution.”

So Oskari is for solving BIGGER GIS problems. Got it!

That is probably why so many public sector organisations have taken some parts of Oskari into enterprise use. I also happen to know (because it is my job to know) that some of them have moved beyond just showing their users and customers what data they have to offer.

For example in Finnish Heritage Agency has integrated their web pages with Oskari, Helsinki Environmental Services have developed a tool for downloading open datasets through their Oskari installation and latest PaikkaOppi (GIS learning portal for school pupils) is on their way to take Oskari as their new web map service.

One of my favorite solutions is the Biomass Altlas provided by LUKE (Natural Resources Institute Finland). They have used  Oskari analysis tool and integrated it to their biomass database providing a possibility to calculate for example the amount of potatoes you can potentially grow in a certain area. How cool is that! What about apples? Sorry…. no apples - just had to check.

Reasons for choosing Oskari as the base for mapping and data delivery operations

Minna Ryyppö, project owner for Oskari installation in FHA - can you help me to understand what are the reasons to choose Oskari platform?

“In 2016 we had a tender for developing a map system for Finnish Heritage Agency’s cultural environment data system. The winning offer, which responded the requirements best, based on Oskari even though Oskari was not a requirement in principle.”

Oh, so you did not even want Oskari in the beginning…

“Now we have a map service where one can see and search different map layers and get information of objects. One important functionality is that all the geospatial features of cultural environmental databases are created and maintained with this system.”

Phiew! Everything turned all right in the end - you go Oskari!

“We also have published embedded maps and use those on other web-pages. For example the site called kyppi.fi uses Oskari map service’s embedded maps in order to show location of cultural environment sites and objects.”

So at least in FHA the Oskari use cases are quite versatile: embedded maps, data maintenance, showcasing datasets and offering detailed information for public. Quite impressive for one software.

From admin user point of view, one of the best characters of Oskari user interface is that it is possible to update map layers via UI. I would warmly recommend Oskari for many different purposes!”, Ryyppö continues.

Oskari  you FHA! Can I use emojis in this blog ? Of course I can! 

From admin user point of view, one of the best characters of Oskari user interface is that it is possible to update map layers via UI. I would warmly recommend Oskari for many different purposes!”

“There is no similar open source map service platform in the world. This development is a glorious task”, says Kauppi without any hesitant.

Choosing the right OS solution

Why should you choose Oskari over some other geoportal software?

At least Ryyppö sees that Oskari is also being developed quite actively and and new versions come pretty often. If you check Oskari’s GitHub account you can see how it is evolving. Now a free hint: if you are interested in different OS products you might want to look at the level of contributors and level of activity in their GitHub accounts. It really helps in deciding which solutions to go for.

Ubigu and FHA are both members of the Joint Development Forum for Oskari, a group of organisations willing to create Oskari tools together. For both of them it is important to be part of the group and the reason is quite obvious when Kauppi says it out loud: “In the group we will hear the latest Oskari news from the field and all members can influence Oskari development.”

Also Ryyppö thinks that the main benefit of choosing Oskari lies on the Oskari’s stakeholder community where other users share the same needs for development and it is possible to do co-operation to meet the needs.

“There is no similar open source map service platform in the world. This development is a glorious task”, says Kauppi without any hesitation.

 

- Sanna Jokela, Oskari communication coordinator
31.5.2018