Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Visiting FAO-SWALIM, UNHCR-Somalia and Wananchi Online

I set myself up for a busy day on Tuesday the 20th. Running around Nairobi all day and visiting various contacts Maurizio had dug up. I also had to get to Loita house by 6:00 pm for a talk to SkunkWorks, a Nairobi gathering of techies.

First visit to FAO-SWALIM was fruitful, Craig was eager to embrace the OpenSource ideas and spend their limited budgets on setting up infrastructure in Kenya and capability development rather than on expensive software license purchases. They also have a lot of satellite and thematic data to share and are taking steps towards making it publicly available.

Next I went to UNHCR office for Somalia, John Marinos was trying to publish the data peace keeping, protection forces and aid agencies gather on displaced populations to Google Earth. A small bug in GE due to the asymmetry of KML import and output was frustrating his efforts. This bug is basically discarding the thematic palette information for KML icons when multiple KMZ's are being aggregated. So I had to script the aggregation myself and send him a master KML which can be kept updated with monthly data, ultimately I hope the database will be able to automatically generate proper KML's for distribution. These KML's had folder based time-tags, so I went ahead and extended the WorldWind KML Parser to respect these. Now the TimeController can be use to play through series and fully appreciate the grim reality of life in Somalia. I will try to add a time slider as soon as possible.

The final meeting was at Loita House - Wananchi Online. A selection of SkunkWorks members turned up, my talk on satellite sensors - SAR and Optical went without a hitch. People really perked up when I started demonstrating WorldWind. Lots of questions arose on performance in low bandwidth, age of data, data costs, methods for acquiring street data and building heights: there seems to a lot of need in Kenya for base mapping data and few very expensive sources.
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