5th GIS Forum in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Main points


When talking about GIS in Ukraine, there are very few informational resources coming to mind, that could help in case one wants to go online and check current situation and projects running in the industry. While many people living in Ukraine are still oftentimes forced to refer to foreign resources in order to find tutorials and hints for solving geospatial challenges in university and at work, GIS Forum is a great opportunity to physically meet various people that are interested in geomatics.

It is already fifth year that GIS Forum is taking place in Kharkiv, and during this time it has become an irreplaceable platform for meeting people passionate about geospatial solutions.

GIS Forum 2016 took place on 15-18th March and attracted more than 150 people. During the days of the event based at Kharkiv National University of V.N.Karazin, in the heart of Kharkiv, many good things happened: there were 46 presentations, 7 workshops, 5 round tables, a competition of student GIS projects, an exhibition of newest geodetic and cartographic equipment and tools. And this list of activities that took place during three days of GIS Forum is not exhaustive at all.

GIS Forum was organized by Department of Physical Geography and Cartography of Kharkiv National University of V.N.Karazin, in partnership with Intetics and GISINFO companies.

The program of the event was split into sections, such as “Production”, “Science” and “Education”, and their topics varied from purely theoretical presentations of new software products and overviews of projects that participants of forum are implementing, and to very practical advices, for instance, about GIS education methodologies for students.


GIS Forum has become a platform for communication and collaboration between various categories of people, whose activities are related to geomatics: scientists and researchers, representatives of companies working in the sphere of geomatics, lecturers and students of departments that are currently using GIS technologies. Each participant has an opportunity to express themselves and hear others out.

Both the organizers and the participants agree that this event is first of all a platform for communication. A place where GIS-involved meet to share their inspiration, enthusiasm and knowledge with others. The communication took forms of workshops, round tables and simple coulouar dialogues.


The first day program of the event was focused on GIS and remote sensing applications in production. Speakers have made presentations that were covering issues of collection, creation and representation of spatial data, as well as using remote sensing methodologies in agro sector.

Day two was dedicated to science and education. One participant even put a Sheldon Cooper t-shirt on to commemorate the day of science at the forum.

During the third day most talks, although not all, concerned GIS applied during educational process.

Some talks

The talks themselves took place in a somewhat hectic atmosphere of a rector’s conference hall. People were going in and out, and the looong table was a hindrance in the room, making the space between speakers and listeners very divided.


Oleksandr Bruy, that was representing Boundless Spatial on GIS Forum, talked about the OpenGeo Suite open toolkit that was developed by their company. Components of OpenGeo Suite could replace commercial applications that are using geospatial data on various platforms, including mobile, server and desktop. Developers of Boundless Spatial have created an environment for visual application interface design, that will allow users without any development skills to create necessary applications on their own.

At GIS Forum, Navigational and Geodetic Center has presented portable device Zeno 20 by Leica, that technically incorporates functionality of many tools, such as tacheometer, GNSS receiver, laser scanner and more. Being a universal device for gathering and processing field data, a single Zeno 20 can replace several previously irreplaceable tools. This compact device has already become popular in Europe and Africa, and now it is also available in Ukraine.


Here Ukraine team shared latest news from the main company office in Berlin. It is Here Maps that invest a lot of effort and resources into development and promotion of driverless cars idea. From the presentation, listeners have learned that Here Maps are successfully collaborating with institutions responsible for roads and their maintenance  in Europe. This interaction is needed in order to have an up-to-date information on the condition on road coverage and road construction. Unfortunately, in Ukraine collaboration with Ukravotdor (State Agency of Automotive Roads) is still not functioning, but Here Ukraine are aiming to continue making efforts on improving communication between two institutions.


Another prominent speaker was Andriy Golovin. He has made it all the way from being an OpenStreetMap activist and voluntary cartographer to being employed as data expert in Mapbox team. He spoke about the way public OSM mapping project functions, and in which way anyone interested can join in. Obviously, the process of improvement and expansion of the most collectively created atlas of our planet is infatuating! It is easy to conclude so from seeing the example of Andriy, who has digitized nearly half of roads and polygonal objects in his home city of Dnepropetrovsk during several years of using OpenStreetMap.

The third day headliners were Raffi Balian and Prof. Douglas Richardson from US Department of State. They spoke about their Secondary cities GIS project that will be implemented in Ukraine. We hope to tell you more about it later. But what we’d like to tell is that this talk and a round table had the audience’s full attention.

Representative of 50° North Eugene Matveichuk was also one of the speakers at the forum. He shared dreams and ideas that became a moving power for initiators of our geospatial blog. Apart from educational function of the blog, editorial board of 50° North would like to turn it into a virtual meeting center for GIS community of Ukraine. The blog is written in two languages, so that in perspective it can become a resource that could shed some light onto situation within GIS industry in Ukraine for our colleagues from abroad, and everyone interested.


There was also a presentation about research in the area of precision agriculture, made by Andriy Achasov, Head of geodesy, Cartography and Geoinformatics department of Kharkiv National Agrarian University of V.V. Dokuchaev. Use of aerial survey data of target territories for monitoring of soil covering parameters with further correction of necessary points can help to optimize agricultural production costs, as well as improve quality of products.

Professor Sergiy Kostrikov shared experience of 25 year-long teaching geomatics to his students. He is reading a course of informatics with the basics of geomatics to the students of Kharkiv National University. In order to facilitate understanding of the subject, in his practice Sergiy focuses on the applied nature of GIS, as well as on forming spatial perception of projects and systems.

Regarding improvement of quality learning output from the practical lessons on GIS related subjects, view and some ideas were shared by Oleksandr Tretyakov, who is also teaching in Kharkiv National University. His aspiration is to constantly improve teaching methods and to make monotonous parts of learning materials more interesting for students, as well as to minimize automated task fulfillment, using approaches that require more conscious execution.


We’d like to point out that nearly all workshops this year were related to open GIS. For example, Victor Olaya and Oleksandr Bruy known QGIS developers shared their experience. Andriy Golovin from Mapbox made a workshop about OSM data export and stylization using Mapbox Studio.


Round tables

Five roundtables were held during the forum. Some of them in fact were too crowded, and the format was somewhat altered, as the dialogue was hard to maintain. In other cases the talks were indeed productive.

The closing event of GIS Forum was held as a roundtable on current problems and aims of education in the field of geographic information systems. There were representatives from the side of lecturers, potential employees, students and industry representatives, which made discussion more objective. Among education related issues low level of computer procurement at universities, unbalanced study plans, and low motivation among students were named. Latter is determined by uncertainty of future employment within the industry.

The forum has ended with mutual wish of closing the gap between employees needs and skills of university graduates. And, actually, it is already possible, as today students that are interested to continue working the area can get real GIS production experience in the offices of ukrainian companies though internship for their university studies. For instance, Here Maps representatives have announced that they are open to student requests regarding having internship in their office.


As we see, it is very useful to have opportunity to meet and collaborate with other GIS-concerned people: even on a local scale, questions are being asked, issues are being verbalized, and that’s how search for the solutions begins.

We wish GIS Forum future growth and expansion, as well as also to engage more people that are not aware of GIS yet!