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FOSS4G – A Conference For The Open-Source Geospatial Community

Andrea Antonello is an open-source geospatial developer, and part of the organizational team for FOSS4G. He has given many talks and trainings to the geospatial community about open source software development over the last 20 years. He holds a PhD in environmental sciences, and lectures Advanced Geomatics at the Free University of Bolzano. His main works involve open source development for environmental modelling, and geospatial mobile applications.

He dives deep into explaining what the FOSS4G is, who it is for, and how persons and businesses can get involved.

What Is FOSS4G?

FOSS4G is a global, annual event hosted by the open geospatial foundation (OSGeo), whose main aim is to promote open source technology and data in the geospatial community. The event was first held in Trento, Italy in 2002 as the GRASS Users Conference with only 140 participants.

The number of participants has increased steadily over the years, with the one in 2021 (held online due to COVID-19 restrictions) posting a record high of just a little less than two thousand participants. An increased interest in building into the open source geospatial technology has resulted in various country-level localizations of the event in Germany, Korea, Japan, Italy, and Holland.

The main topics covered in the FOSS4G event span across:

Education and research, Use cases and applications, Software development projects in the OSG world, and Transitioning geospatial software from proprietary to open source.


The 2022 FOSS4G

The FOSS4G event for 2022 will be held from August 22-28, 2022 in Firenze, Italy. The conference will be nothing short of an amazing geospatial experience with great minds, activities, and ideas. The 7-day event is divided into workshops, B2B events, the main conference, and the community sprint. Read on for a breakdown of what each category entails:

FOSS4G Workshops

Workshops are conducted for a select set of the most important projects sourced from the FOSS4G community. Participants with a particular interest in learning something new will experience 4 hours of hands-on workshops that will give them a deeper knowledge into open source geospatial projects that have been competitively selected. The workshops will feature notable members of the geospatial community who will walk attendees through an application, a software, or the development of an application.

FOSS4G B2B Event

This is one of the side events that is particularly dedicated to businesses. Here, companies have a chance to network and be exposed to the latest open source geospatial technology, which they might choose to use in their professional activities or collaborations.

FOSS4G Main Conference

The main conference features talks that are divided into academics, general discussions about use cases, and presentations of the state of a certain software. The use cases in particular attract stakeholders from public administrations, and organizations that want to make use of the showcased software in their own projects.

FOSS4G Community Sprint

During this part of the conference, developers of different projects hold meetings to decide on a road map for the next year’s projects and commitments. The community sprint also features translators, documentation experts, and power users. It pretty much brings together those interested in contributing to the development of open source geospatial software, even if they have minimal coding expertise.

Why Should You Be Part Of FOSS4G?

Whether you attend as an individual, or a company representative, there is so much to gain from the FOSS4G conference. First off, it is a place to meet a diverse pool of great geospatial minds that you will be hard to find anywhere else. This is a great chance for creating business connections, and building your network, which can lead to actual jobs, benefitting both the attending companies and the individuals.

The FOSS4G is also accommodating towards participants who do not have advanced knowledge in the geospatial software space. The workshops are categorized into both introductory, and advanced workshops to accommodate all levels of expertise. What’s more, the most important workshops usually feature both the introductory and advanced workshops. This creates excellent opportunities to gain new skills, and go home ready to use them. 

Participants can request a certificate showing the events and trainings they attended. This will give you a chance to showcase your pursuits to the broader community, and contribute to your career overall. Ultimately, you will get more value than just the certificate – the informal chats, catch ups, and discussions during events, during breaks, and while grabbing meals on site offers opportunities for networking and making valuable connections.


How Do You Get Involved In An OSGeo Project?

The FOSS4G conference may be the best place to start if you are interested in being part of a team for a particular project. There is a new event dubbed “An hour with the developer” that will bring you up to speed with what is happening in a certain project, straight from the source. 

During this event, notable members of the development community will accept questions from anyone who would like to start on a project. They will procedurally show the newly interested participants how to build environments, and get started on their new favourite projects. This is a great chance to get started on a project that interests you, while gaining hands on experience and knowledge.

How Is FOSS4G Different From Other Geospatial Conferences?

A majority of people who have attended FOSS4G events before say that they experienced a different level of community feel at the events. They did not feel like they are being marketed to all the time. They view FOSS4G as an event where the community gathers – and for most of them, it is a chance to meet the friends they have made in the geospatial space. This is a time to reconnect with old colleagues, or find new ones. 

At FOSS4G events you will see people sitting around and doing things together, whether it is coding, or discussing an interesting project that is creating a buzz in the geospatial sphere. The vibe is very informal, which communicates a strong sense of community. It is a well-balanced work and chat environment that gives the kind of warmth that you need when you attend a conference, and that convinces you to come back time and time again.

How To Break Into The FOSSG Community

Strong communities are usually hard to break into. It takes a lot of time and effort before a new person can become a part of such a community. This may be intimidating for those who are joining the FOSS4G for the first time. Luckily, the FOSS4G organizers acknowledge this and that is why they put the Icebreaker Event at the beginning of the conference. Participants talk about anything in informal groups during the ice breaker and this can be an excellent entry point for new persons.

Details Of The 2022 FOSS4G In Italy

Currently, the registration for the 2022 conference is ongoing with some nice discounts for the early birds. Until the end of June, the conference fee is €400 and payment for each workshop is €80. Later, form 1st of July, the regular conference fee will be €600 and €120 for each workshop.

There are also travel grants for those who would like to participate but do not have the financial capacity. This also includes a free conference ticket. The grant is divided into three levels depending on whether you are from Italy, the Schengen area, or the rest of the world. Beneficiaries from these locations get a €200, €400, and €800 value grant respectively.

Want to hear more about some of OSGeo’s projects? We want to tell you about them. Check out some of our existing podcast episodes on popular open-source software:

About the Author
I'm Daniel O'Donohue, the voice and creator behind The MapScaping Podcast ( A podcast for the geospatial community ). With a professional background as a geospatial specialist, I've spent years harnessing the power of spatial to unravel the complexities of our world, one layer at a time.