Studying tropical and subtropical agriculture? Wherever will that take you? Well, just take a look at the CV of Paolo Viskanic, agronomist from Merano. Specialized in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) he applied them in many projects in Africa and Europe over the past 25 years. The 50-year-old was born, brought up and still lives in Merano. After a degree in tropical and subtropical agriculture in Florence, he worked for 15 years in UN, World Bank and EU Projhects in West Africa and Eastern Europe. The focus of his activities was mainly on managing information and databases for the conservation of biodiversity and other natural resources. During his studies and his international assignments, he learnt about geodata and databases, using this knowledge later on to offer innovative services via R3 GIS S.r.l. for the benefit of public administrations and private clients in Italy, Austria Switzerland and Poland.
How and when did you learn about Open Data, Open Source, etc.?
For many years, I successfully worked with proprietary software. I learnt about Open Source when I founded R3 GIS. Up until then I had worked with software installed on your computer and alternatives to proprietary software were few and far between. Around 10 years ago, software started to move from the desktop to online platforms. This was an important opportunity for Open Source, as the end user could have access to countless functions via a web browser, such as Internet Explorer or Mozilla. Where these services originated from was totally irrelevant to the end user, as long as they satisfied their needs. This situation was seen as the push needed to develop new standardisation rules for Open Source projects and R3GIS was there right from the start. Open Data is more recent: citizens require more transparency and access to data to be able to carry out their own analysis and evaluation. At the same time, data is growing at such a speed that institutions are having a hard time keeping up with it and cannot analyse and evaluate them efficiently. This is where evaluation and presentation tools may have a good opportunity. Big Data, e-Government and infographics are some key words of techniques and tools which will be required more and more in the future.
What's your job at R3 GIS? Tell us more about that.
I founded R3 GIS 10 years ago with other people and brought my knowledge and experience to the table. I have been CEO and Sales Manager since 2005. I acquire new clients, advise them on their data management and offer them solutions developed by my collaborators.
R3 GIS mainly uses Open Source technologies. Furthermore, in Italy, R3 GIS delivers classes on free and open source GIS software. What is Open Source and why did you decide to work with it?
Open Source means that everyone who is tech savvy and curious enough, can look at the inner mechanism of the software, and even modify it. Open source is also an innovative business model to us for the development of solutions and services. For a software to work it needs many components, among which an operating system, database and a web server. These general components are then developed and managed by a network of developers. Everyone gets a share of the cake, because these software are used in different projects. From these general components, we then develop bespoke solutions for our clients' needs. Open Source fosters the creation of networks, international cooperation, creativity and innovation, because everyone has the opportunity to achieve their ideas and goals in terms of development. At the same time, we start building a hub of local skills. From the developers' point of view, this results in personal development and an enhancement of their skills. Open Source for the local economy means more skilled jobs and increased local added value, because the services are created in the province, instead of relying on third parties (which often come from abroad).
R3 GIS http://www.r3-gis.com/en