Despite the phenomenal progress made in Information Technology and Military Engineering in the past few decades, the adoption of geospatial technologies by armed forces globally has been rather slow due to the numerous challenges faced.
One of the major challenges faced is the cost and complexity of geospatial solutions. In an era of diminishing defence budgets, this transformation is usually given lesser importance. The complexity of such systems adds to the resistance to change. Then, there is a difficult choice of whether to upgrade legacy systems or to procure new ones, obviously at a much higher cost. Whatever the choice, there will be the need to ensure interoperability between the new and the legacy systems. This interoperability must be across all functional levels as also between different services, i.e., Army, Navy, Air Force and Para Military and Central Armed Police Forces, and also joint standards, to enable successful joint operations. Apart from the high cost of the systems themselves is the issue of availability and access and the high cost of remote sensing data. Then there is the issue of storage of a huge amount of data and ensuring its reliability and security. The industry is more than ready with latest dedicated geospatial solutions, but there is a problem of holding the attention of decision makers. And, to add to their woes is the ever so complicated procurement process. Therefore, the time taken between the choice of a geospatial product to its final implementation is usually a lo ng one.
The current global spectrum of conflict encompasses sub conventi onal operations, low intensity conflicts, counter terrorism operation s, aerospace, maritime and amphibious operations and recently anti satellite (ASAT) operations. In such a scenario, the need for being network-enabled is not a choice, but a dire necessity. In such a distributed operational environment, both in time and space with multiple stakeholders, the need for network centricity was never as pressing as it is now. Geographical systems are the facilitators which ensure the networking and net-centricity would not be feasible without GIS support.
Analysts and political, military and industry leaders of most developing nations understand the need for transformation and the challenges in the adoption of geospatial technologies. The roadmap and timelines may vary, but a lot will depend on the leadership’s resolve and commitment in preparing and sticking to a comprehensive plan for transformation. For any developing nation to pursue its goal towards this transformation, the government must be an active and constructive partner and come out with adequate budgets and supporting policies that help to shorten procurement cycles and adopt capabilities based acquisition. It may take a decade or two before the geospatial concepts are fully realised, but certainly it is in the nature of any transformation that the process will never be complete.