To understand and address issues such as land degradation, deforestation, food security, and greenhouse gas emissions, countries need access to high-quality and timely information. As these challenges have become more urgent over the past decade, the need for more information has also increased. At the recent 2016 Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit, we introduced a new open source project called moja global, supported by the Clinton Foundation and the governments of Australia, Canada and Kenya, that aims to provide the tools necessary to help address these issues.
The past decade has seen considerable advances in satellite technology and methods. There have also been large-scale campaigns collecting ground measurements, which can be combined with satellite data to produce the information required by countries to plan and respond to land management issues.
Unfortunately, few tools exist that can integrate these data into coherent, operational systems. Instead, analysis of satellite and ground data largely continues in isolation, often with little consideration of the expected end uses or actual country need.
This is partly due to the lack of generic tools that allow countries to combine their own ground and satellite data to meet their specific needs. This also leads to countries building several smaller, custom-developed tools. This is slow, inefficient, and results in a proliferation of approaches and systems that are not comparable.
The moja global project will help provide software and data solutions for countries and communities to better manage their land. The initiative aims to develop and manage new generic tools that can be used by any country, NGO or private sector organisation to combine satellite and ground data to develop efficient and credible systems that put useful data into the hands of decision makers.
Specifically, the moja global team has developed a new integrating tool, the Full Lands Integration Tool (FLINT) that combines satellite and ground data in ways that meet policy needs. The FLINT is based on more than 20 years of experience building and operating similar tools in Australia and Canada, but additional development work is needed.
The FLINT makes developing and operating advanced systems achievable by all countries. It is a generic platform with a modular structure, allowing countries to attach any variety of models or data to build country-specific systems. The platform handles complex computer science tasks, such as the storage and processing of large data sets, leaving users to focus on monitoring, reporting and scenario analyses. A first implementation of these concepts has been demonstrated in Kenya with the System for Land Emission Estimation for Kenya (SLEEK), which runs on the FLINT platform.
Open Source Support Is Needed
But simply having a new tool is not enough. The FLINT needs to be supported and managed at a level that gives governments and other users confidence that it will be sustained in the long-term. Moja global aims to provide this confidence by managing the FLINT as collaboratively developed, professional-grade software. Moja global can also be used to house other software required by governments and other users, such as satellite data processing methods, databases, and GIS processing tools.
A key element of the FLINT is that all of the software will be open source. True open source approaches are uncommon in the land sector software world. Most groups simply place code on GitHub without licensing or processes that foster a diverse developer and user community. Jim Zemlin’s opening presentation at the 2016 Collaboration Summit provides a clear path that needs to be followed if we are to move away from this.
We look forward to working with organizations like The Linux Foundation to create a true open source approach to land sector software — bringing the experience and expertise of the open source developer community for the good of the planet.
This is just the first step in, hopefully, a long journey. Numerous obstacles lie ahead, that are common to many other software projects. The moja global project must actively address issues of funding, developer time, documentation, community management, organizational roles, and project management. We invite you to join us in building moja global into a vibrant open source project working to create the tools that countries and communities need to improve land management.