CEOSPEAK: Geospatial Technologies for a smarter planet
Geospatial technologies are becoming pervasive and are finding applications across multiple domains. These technologies are becoming a catalyst for several transformational changes in the world; primarily in environment management, urban planning, utilities, security, emergency response, governance and citizen engagement. Location is an important parameter in virtually every aspect of the functioning of the government and hence Geographic Information Systems (GIS) would always be a critical component of most of the mission mode projects conceptualized and implemented by the government. GIS would power several flagship projects announced by the government like Smart Cities, Digital India, Integrated Watershed Management System, National Land Record Modernisation Program, Swatchh Bharat Abhiyan, Mission for Clean Ganga, Roads & Highways, among others. While e-gov is the current paradigm, the future lies in embedding GIS in governance and service delivery. GIS forms an important component of the Digital India project and should be leveraged for decision support systems and development. Geospatial technologies have been in use in India for more than two decades and form the core of several mission critical projects in the government and private sector. The early users were national mapping agencies like Survey of India, Geological Survey of India, Department of Space, National Informatics Centre, State Remote Sensing Centres etc. who adopted these technologies to build foundation geospatial data sets. Several pilot projects were launched both by the central government as well as states to deploy these technologies across various domains like forestry, water resource conservation and management, urban development and disaster management. However, the deployment has been at departmental level with minimal integration resulting in creation of silos and limiting the benefits. Now is the opportune moment to consolidate the work already done and extend the benefits to all the stakeholders.
Issues & Challenges:
Some of the issues with the current scenario are: Lack of collaboration and sharing of data between user organisations leading to duplication in data creation. This results in not only cost escalation but also delays in project implementation Lack of standards because of which data cannot be shared between various users Absence of a common data model to facilitate scalability and extensibility Some of the data available with mapping agencies is in CAD form and needs to be reengineered before it is deployed in GIS projects Shortage of skilled GIS manpower which constraints adoption of GIS by the user departments The key drivers for growth in usage of geospatial technologies would be: Availability of Geospatial Information Products - Maps - Imagery - Aerial Photographs Accurate, current and high scale maps Business Process Reengineering Skilled Manpower Enabling Policy Framework The last one is particularly important since an enabling geospatial policy will facilitate availability of authoritative, accurate and standards based geospatial information products to all the users; ensure that data is kept current and is available both in human and machine readable form. The policy will protect the intellectual property rights of data producers while encouraging creation of value added products thereby enriching it further and extending its usage to a wide segment of users.
Current Geospatial Policy Framework:
Currently there are five policies that address different aspects of geospatial information. They are: The National Map Policy 2005 (NMP2005) defines scope, distribution, and access of topographic maps of Survey of India The Remote Sensing Data Policy (RSDP 2001 and 2011) explains process for distribution of satellite imagery to various types of users The National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy 2012 (NDSAP 2012) recommends open access to data created with public funds, available with government departments The Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) 2012, describes procedure for issue of permission for flight clearance and geophysical survey The Delhi Geographical Spatial Data Infrastructure (Management, Control, Administration, Security and Safety), Act, 2011 defining the mandatory sharing, accessing and utilisation of Delhi GeoSpatial Data.
While each of the above policies addresses specific aspects of geospatial information they together do not facilitate availability of accurate, authoritative and interoperable data for the country. There is a need for a comprehensive geospatial content policy which would: Promote use of geospatial information across various domains Make content available to all those who can benefit from it - Government - Citizens - Business - NGOs - Academia Facilitate sharing and collaboration Mandate adoption of standards Eliminate duplication of data creation effort Keep data current Adopt contemporary technology to disseminate data - Discover, access and
consume Protect integrity and sovereignty of the country In the recent past there have been two initiatives from the government to introduce a geospatial information policy.
National Geospatial Policy 2016 (NGP 2016)
The policy draft has been developed by a committee appointed by Department of Science & Technology. The committee held consultative meetings with various stakeholders to solicit their views and recommendations. Key aspects of NGP 2016 are: Conceptualised by DST Currently at draft stage Advocates level playing field – Government and Private Sector All geospatial data created using public funds to be made available free of cost Data, both in human and machine readable form, must be made available on mobile and Internet platform Ensure open standards based seamless interoperable data Data should be classified into restricted and unrestricted and open access category based on features
Geospatial Information Regulation Bill 2016 (GIRB 2016)
Draft developed by Ministry of Home Affairs A bill to regulate acquisition, dissemination, publication and distribution of geospatial information of India which is likely to affect the security, sovereignty and integrity of India Prohibits wrong or false topographic information of India including national boundaries Requires entities engaged in geospatial data acquisition, dissemination or distribution to obtain prior permission of Security Vetting Authority It also defines the punishment for violation of the terms and conditions of the licence Both the policy initiatives are a welcome development since they would provide the framework for creation, dissemination and usage of geospatial information. However, some parts of the GIRB 2016 need to be reviewed in order to provide an enabling policy environment for wide spread usage of geospatial information. They are: There should be no compromise on national security, integrity and sovereignty. Further national boundaries must be depicted as per Government of India guidelines. Also vital installations' internal layout must be masked Data acquisition should not require a licence. Instead, entities interested in data acquisition and production should register their plan on a data registry portal hosted by the Security Vetting Agency. Before publishing their data sets they should get it vetted. No licence should be required for distribution and dissemination once data is vetted and certified. Should encourage private sector to participate in data acquisition and production activities in order to meet the users' need of a variety of data sets for their projects. Private sector companies must also be encouraged to create value added products/services. No vetting should be required for value added products created by way of apps/services The policy should support various modes for data distribution including Cloud, Web and magnetic media. The policy must mandate data creators to share it with all others who can benefit from it. Further, the data producers must adhere to standards in order to make their product interoperable. Define guidelines for Intellectual Property Rights, especially for value added products
Application of geospatial technologies can play key role in implementation of various government programs and build an effective review and monitoring mechanism. It will provide a new paradigm in decision making by enabling geographical visualization and representation of information. GIS based decision making is an important component of electronic service delivery. It will help the bureaucrats in taking more informed decisions leading to: Strengthening of governance Enhanced transparency Improvement in citizen services A robust all-encompassing geospatial policy will act as a catalyst in embedding geospatial information into various business processes and building powerful decision support systems - the foundation for developing strategies to deal with the current challenges and building a smarter planet. * Rajesh Mathur is Advisor, Esri India and Chairman, FICCI Committee on Geospatial Technologies.