- Feye Andal
November 2023 was a month of profound experiences as I traversed through three exceptional conferences in Asia, each leaving a lasting impression on my journey in the open mapping community. From the lively streets of Bangkok, Thailand, to the resilient city of Tacloban City, Leyte, and the dynamic atmosphere of Seoul, South Korea, these conferences not only expanded my horizons but also reinforced the significance of collaboration and passion within the Asian community. 🌏
In a twist of fate, just two weeks before the scheduled conferences, an unexpected challenge arose—I suffered an ankle injury that necessitated the use of ankle stirrups for three weeks. Thankfully it was just a sprain. But, I was advised to wear them until the first day of FOSS4G Asia. Despite the discomfort and physical limitations, my dedication to attending the conferences remained intact. Of course I didn't want to miss the amazing conferences! 😅
As I reflected on the vibrant discussions and shared insights, I realized that these conferences held a special significance for me beyond the immediate learnings—they served as a poignant celebration of my 10th year anniversary in the open mapping community. The journey, with its unexpected twists and unwavering commitment, became a testament to a decade of dedication and the enduring spirit that continues to drive my commitment to the community.
1. State of the Map Asia - Bangkok, Thailand (Nov 16-18, 2023) 🇹🇭
The adventure kicked off in the heart of Bangkok, Thailand, where the State of the Map Asia was held. Serving as the lead of the Review Committee, the task of evaluating numerous topic proposals proved to be both challenging and rewarding. Working closely with OpenStreetMap (OSM) volunteers and passionate individuals, most of whom were from the Philippines, added an extra layer of fulfillment. The collaboration with the predominantly Filipino organizing committee and the local organizing committee from Thailand created an environment that felt less like work and more like a shared passion.
Weekly meetings and collaborative efforts with the team, particularly the Programs Team, brought together familiar faces in an atmosphere teeming with enthusiasm. Despite missing the first day due to my best friend's wedding, the subsequent days were filled with enriching experiences—from the conference sessions to the memorable dinner cruise. Special mention goes to the dedicated volunteers who overcame language barriers and other challenges, ensuring the success of the conference. My heartfelt gratitude to the Programs Team volunteers and the UP Resilience Institute YouthMappers Chapter in Metro Manila, Leonil and Marifer, for stepping up during my absence on the first day.
Also, to my delight and surprise, I was honored with the DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Community Champion award, standing alongside my bestie, Arnalie Vicario. 🏆 This recognition not only added a personal touch to the conference but also highlighted the importance of fostering diversity and inclusion within the open mapping community. It was a moment of shared triumph, reinforcing the idea that our collective efforts towards a more inclusive community are being acknowledged and celebrated.
Check the full list of the recognized individuals and communities at SoTM Asia here!
2. Pista ng Mapa - Tacloban City, Leyte (Nov 21-23, 2023) 🇵🇭
My journey continued to Tacloban City, Leyte, where the Pista ng Mapa 2023 took center stage. This year, the conference was organized by UP Tacloban YouthMappers, in collaboration with UP Visayas Tacloban College, offering a refreshing perspective as we took a step back and witnessed the youth leading the charge. Commemorating Supertyphoon Yolanda marked a pivotal moment for OSM Philippines, and the conference became a testament to the youth, by the youth, and for the youth in the region.
The abundance of YouthMappers chapter members in attendance added to the vibrant atmosphere, showcasing the diverse contributions of young mappers. It was heartening to witness members from different communities sharing their remarkable work, creating a sense of unity and shared purpose.
The significance of community recognition continued at Pista ng Mapa. Here, we dedicated a special segment to honor the contributions of YouthMappers chapters. A community award ceremony allowed us to shine a spotlight on the remarkable work of these chapters, acknowledging their continued dedication and impact. Additionally, we recognized inspiring individuals within the community, celebrating their passion and commitment to the open mapping cause. This gesture not only reinforced the sense of community but also served as a reminder that every contribution, big or small, plays a vital role in shaping the landscape of our shared journey in the open mapping endeavors.
3. FOSS4G Asia - Seoul, South Korea (Nov 28-Dec 2, 2023) 🇰🇷
The grand finale of my November conference tour led me to FOSS4G Asia, where I played the role of a participant, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. Collaborating with my brother for a workshop on Python for geospatial was a special highlight, marking his first overseas travel and FOSS4G Asia experience.
Presenting my work with YouthMappers and being invited as a keynote speaker at FOSS4G Asia held a profound significance, especially considering the unexpected journey that led me there. Initially, I hadn't planned to attend FOSS4G Asia, but fueled by my desire to introduce my brother to the FOSS4G community, we decided to apply for the travel grant. To our delight, both of us were accepted, opening the door to an unforeseen adventure. 🙏
As the conference drew near, I received a humbling invitation to deliver the keynote speech. This caught me by surprise, as FOSS4G had always seemed like a predominantly technical space compared to the more familiar territory of OSM. Doubts lingered, but the reassurance from my mentors within YouthMappers played a crucial role. Dr. Patricia Solis and Marcela Zeballos highlighted that my selection as a keynote speaker not only celebrated my contributions to the OSM community but also underscored the notion that FOSS4G is, at its core, a community space.
The relaxed atmosphere of the conference, coupled with the presence of friends from the global FOSS4G in Prizren, Kosovo, further dissolved any reservations. What started as an unexpected decision to apply for a travel grant transformed into a rich experience of sharing my journey, bridging the gap between OSM and FOSS4G, and embracing the sense of community that transcended technical boundaries. The keynote opportunity became a poignant reminder that, regardless of perceived differences, both OSM and FOSS4G share a common thread—a passionate and collaborative community driving innovation and change.
An added highlight unfolded after my talk, as a conversation was initiated by the retired Chief of the United Nations, Kyoung-Soo Eom. Expressing a keen interest, he expressed a desire to collaborate with YouthMappers, alongside UN mappers—a testament to the power of collaboration and the positive impact of our collective efforts. This unexpected opportunity further emphasized the meaningful work we do and the potential for partnerships that can drive positive change on a global scale.
A Decade of Dedication
As the whirlwind of conferences settled, the exhaustion was overshadowed by the profound connections made and the inspiring exchange of ideas and experiences. November 2023 marked not only by open mapping conferences in Asia but also the celebration of my 10th year in the OSM community. Being a keynote speaker and attending the three conferences dedicated to OSM and FOSS4G was an especially rewarding experience as a volunteer for a decade. The journey, though challenging, became a testament to the enduring commitment and passion that has fueled my contribution to the community over the years.
November 2023 will forever be etched in my memory as a month of personal and professional growth, where the open mapping community proved once again that the journey is not just about maps and data but the people and the stories behind them. Meeting both young and old friends, all sharing a profound passion for the community, added an extra layer of significance to the experience. The collective spirit of passion and collaboration made every moment worth it, turning work into a shared adventure and marking a decade of dedication to the OSM community.
As I reflect on the connections forged during these conferences, the motivation to do more in the coming years is amplified. The shared enthusiasm and commitment exhibited by both seasoned veterans and new faces alike serve as a constant reminder that the open mapping community is a dynamic and thriving ecosystem. With renewed energy and a sense of purpose, I look forward to contributing even more to the community's growth and success in the years ahead.
I extend heartfelt gratitude to the conference organizers for the travel grant and the support they provided, which played a crucial role in making my attendance at these conferences possible. Thank you for enabling this transformative experience and contributing to the collective spirit that makes our community thrive.