Great business opportunities with open source software

It’s seven years since I heard and used a GIS for the first time. Back then, when my knowledge of GIS was limited to a few lectures that I had in my first semester of my degree programme back in college, the expectations of a great future with GIS were so high. I never understood the nitty gritty in this field. With time, I learnt a lot in terms of software, data analysis, data management, system development, web GIS and many more. From the beginning, data analysis, map making and data publishing was done in open source software. This was due to the lack of various licenses required to use proprietary GIS software on our personal computers. Having acquired skills based on these software, the industry looked so promising and had to up the game to meet the expected standards in the market. In general, there exist great opportunities in the geospatial industry. As a young mind, the ideas of creating companies or landing a great job were all that rang my mind. In the industry, it’s all about finding your niche and working it out in your own ways, best ways possible.

In this post, I share the opportunities that exist in the open source world, in general and also in the geospatial industry.

System Development

One of the great opportunities that exist out there in the market, not specific to any field, is the development of software or solutions to tackle a specific problem at work, in the community or even globally. There exist quite a big number of projects carried out in a year within a country. Winning a contract to carry out such projects for various clients is big business. The development of a GIS system by an agency, government or even an organization is a good business for the consultant. With the realization of initiatives to facilitate the use of open source software in community based projects and the collaboration of different stakeholders to fund projects in different areas, there is a big niche for many. For example, the United Nations Open Source Innovation Initiative (Unite Open Source) advocates for the use of open source tools in projects so as to ensure sustainability, cohesiveness and participatory development.

Customizations/Enhancements

One of the benefits of the free and open source tools is the freedom to use, change and redistribute them. This means that you can customize an existing tool to fit specific needs  of a client or organization. In so doing, there is a business here. You are paid for the customization of the tool to offer a solution. Software such as QGIS can be customized to fit a specific industry for use. The knowledge of these tools is required, of which some have steep learning curves but worth investing in. One can also develop add-ons to the existing software such as QGIS plugins to provide a solution to the targeted group.

Maintenance/Support

Most companies are developing GIS systems such as web GIS that are left behind and abandoned after the project is completed by the consultant. These companies seek services such as system  updates and maintenance. In a GIS, there is quite a lot in terms of system maintenance such as data analysis and update, metadata collection and integration and many more. All these are opportunities to take advantage in.In many companies, there is a lot of work in terms of maps generation, filing and spatial data updates making it difficult for the organizations to do all these by themselves and hence outsource for these services.As a consultant, one can manage a number of systems at a go, making it a good business on your end.

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Capacity Building / Training

In the geospatial sector, as more people use GIS and new users get on-board, training services are on high demand. The need to learn a new software or tool or advance skills in the existing tools  by the users create these opportunities for the service providers. As technology advances, more solutions are unveiled every month to help GIS users work efficiently and effectively. The acquisition of these skills require a detailed training to help in faster execution of tasks. Having carried out over 10 training sessions in QGIS, there is a great opportunity in this sector.

Some free and open source software are easy to install but are complex to understand and operate. They require expert knowledge to use some of the available tools. Its always advisable to to a market research and know the software on demand and ensure you have expertise skills in this. Be ready always.

Documentation

Some existing open source software have limited or no documentation at all. This is a good opportunity for one to sell the documentation. In other ways, an expert can sell manuals developed for the software after a good understanding of the system. These manuals or documentation can be in terms of books, manual sheets or even an online portal for other users to access.

 

As it’s well known, free and open source software offer freedom to work with it as you wish but the services linked to it do not necessarily mean they are free. As expressed in the open source and free software discussions ,This is a matter of freedom, not price, so think of “free speech,” not “free beer.”, there are many opportunities that lie within this sector and are worth investing in.

Which other opportunities do you see in the open source software sector?

Wanjohi Kibui
About Wanjohi Kibui 23 Articles
A GIS Developer, Consultant and Author.Passionate about Geospatial technologies. To read more about his work, visit http://www.lifeingis.com Access video Tutorials on YouTube
  • Willy Simons

    I doubt whether consultants / solopreneurs can withstand the rigours of product development and the onslaught by SaaS competitors. Great opportunities though for consultants and agencies / companies in particular to leverage open source tools in delivering specialised or routine GIS services.

    • With the rapid changes in the software industry, everyone is a player but only the strong and better solutions will win the day. Great opportunities presented to us for our seizing and use