India’s Geospatial Sector

News: Last year new guidelines took effect to completely de-regulate the geospatial sector for Indians.

Background:

  • India has a robust ecosystem in geospatial, with the Survey of India (SoI), the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), remote sensing application centres (RSAC)s, and the National Informatics Centre (NIC) in particular, and all ministries and departments, in general, using geospatial technology.
  • However, the full benefits have yet to percolate to the public; neither is there much contribution to the nation’s GDP. The Prime Minister’s speech during Independence Day and mention of geospatial in the Union Budget have created the necessary buzz. The last year has also witnessed some activity on the ground.
  • The most noticeable was the over subscription of the initial public offering of MapmyIndia.
  • The other noticeable activity was the launching of a city mapping programme by Genesys International in India. Such an aggressive stance by investors for geospatial was not seen in the earlier regime; it is certain that the new guidelines have played a role.

Challenges

  • There is no demand for geospatial services and products on a scale linked to India’s potential and size.
  • This is mainly due to the lack of awareness among potential users in government and private.
  • The other hurdle has been the lack of skilled manpower across the entire pyramid.
  • The unavailability of foundation data, especially at high-resolution, is also a constraint.
  • The lack of clarity on data sharing and collaboration prevents co-creation and asset maximisation.
  • Lastly, barring a few cases, there are still no ready-to-use solutions especially built to solve the problems of India.

Way forward:

  • Despite one year since the new guidelines came into effect, users are still not fully aware of things.
  • First and foremost is the need to publish the entire policy document and make government and private users aware of things. The data available with government departments should be unlocked, and data sharing should be encouraged and facilitated.
  • The Government needs to invest in developing standards and must mandate the adoption of standards
  • While different types of data will be produced on a project-to-project basis, there is a need to generate foundation data across India. This should include the Indian national digital elevation model (InDEM), data layers for cities, and data of natural resources. Local technology and solutions should be promoted, and competition should be encouraged for quality output.
  • As the new guidelines prevent high-accuracy data being stored in overseas clouds, there is a need to develop a geospatial data cloud locally and facilitate a solution as service.
  • Unlike the West, India lacks a strata of core professionals who understand geospatial end-to-end. India should start a bachelor’s programme in geospatial also in the Indian Institutes of Technology and the National Institutes of Technology. Besides these, there should be a dedicated geospatial university.