Tuesday, 15 October 2013

AGI Northern Ireland Showcase Round Up

Last Thursday marked both the AGI NI Showcase and my first ever trip to Belfast (well technically we arrived on Wednesday). I’m happy to report that, a rather hairy landing at Belfast International aside both these events passed of very smoothly.

The NI Showcase was the fourth event in our AGI Showcase series. For those that don’t know the Showcase series of events are a programme of events that are new for 2013. They are one day events located around the UK, broadly in line with the AGI’s various regional groups (Northern Ireland, SW England, Cymru, Scotland etc). The idea behind these events is to make the AGI programme more accessible to our members around the UK. We understand that in the current economic climate not everyone can justify the time and travel costs to come to a residential multi day event like GeoCommunity. Not wanting anyone to miss out we decided to run a supplementary set of events bringing GI to the whole UK.

Much like the other Showcase events this year the Northern Ireland event was very well attended, held at the bright and airy (but thankfully warm) Riddle Hall in Belfast we had around 100 delegates and a group of sponsors including one for whom this was their first AGI event.

The event itself had two sessions running simultaneously following an opening presentation from Justin Gleason and the All Ireland Research observatory (AIRO). One of the two sessions/streams consisted of a variety of presentations and talks and the second consisted of technical sessions. The first three talks of the presentation stream contained a very humanitarian focus with presentations on using Openstreetmap for humanitarian mapping, GIS volunteer projects in Lesotho and Global Map Aid. These sessions really showed the potential benefits of GI for the citizen all around the world and there seemed to be a general interest amongst the delegates about getting involved.

Not being able to split myself in two (yet) I missed the technical sessions but was given a sneak preview of John Hewitt’s Demystifying Open Source GIS presentation whilst waiting for the delegates to arrive. This included some software which allowed users to view edits to Openstreetmap in real time. David McIlhatton from Ulster University had an equally impressive toy to display. This was a 3D model of Belfast built using a gaming engine which allowed the user to simulate things like traffic conditions, crowds and parades enabling the police to develop responses and tactics for things like crowd control. (OK it’s a serious bit of software not a toy but it does require an Xbox controller to use).

The main sessions were followed up with a presentation on crowd sourcing data in Dublin and a Q&A about the future of the AGI with Anne Kemp. The event then wound up with the inevitable (essential) geodrinks at a nearby bar. Talking to the delegates over lunch (in between eating as many honey mustard sausages as possible) the feedback for the event was very positive with the range of speakers grabbing interest. We had a number of new members sign up just to attend the event and there was a general enthusiasm for a GI event in Northern Ireland to complement those held by IRLOGI south of the border.

Sponsor feedback was also very positive with one sponsor telling me that the nature of the showcase programme (specifically the ability to buy a package for all the events) allowed them to present in regions that they would not normally be able to attend. In doing so they had generated interest from a whole new set of leads. This was good to hear as the whole point of the Showcase events has been to spread the reach of the AGI and the community and to connect people who would otherwise never meet.

On another note Belfast seems like a great city which I must visit as a tourist, if you happen to be going I can recommend a great B&B to stay in!

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