Infrastructure is an outcome of our philosophy, which leads to a government elected, which in turn uses their thought process in providing/creating/improving the infrastructure. In the present day context, physical infrastructure has become an inevitable lifeline for any country, which is not limited by means as much it is by the will. The ‘Will’, which again is found doing tight rope walk between ‘Strong decisions’ vis-a-vis politics of consensus.
When we started conceptualizing the June issue of GIS Development, we had one question standing in front of us, “How are we using Geospatial Technology for the infrastructure projects?” We all agree, Geospatial has a lot to offer in terms of reducing cost & time incurred for the project and better project management. But somewhere, we find GIS not being able to get that ‘Must have’ tag. In our approach to this issue, we have looked at the geospatial in infrastructure from the regional window of India. Dr Satyaprakash and Ananya Ghosh talked and interviewed officials from various sectors including: roads, energy, urban development and railways. The outcome is a mixed scenario which has organisations engaged in data creation to those which have started reaping the benefits in monetary terms. It is not just US$13 million saved by RITES, in a railway corridor project, but an example which will be followed by many in the private segment, which needs to cut the project cost, while maintaining the conformity to the specification, within the given time schedule.
Geographic data has been accepted as the enabling platform for most of the industry segments which has it’s interest spread over a geographic area. A thought further extended by Geoff Zeiss, in his article (page 28), wherein he mentions about GIS as an extension of information system which provides a platform to integrate various aspects of infrastructure project like architectural drawings, civil engineering design, land-use planing, construction engineering and infrastructure maintenance. When the above aspects are not looked in the holistic manner, it leads to a fragmented approach to GIS, which reduces the return on investment, a point which GS Rao & Ajita Kini (page 44) have put across in their article. The fragmentted approach many a times makes the GIS look as a cost centre for preparing visually attractive landscape 3D model only. Almost similar feeling has been echoed by Todd Slind (page 30), where he points out that geospatial technology is yet to be fully exploited to service the entire infrastructure life-cycle. The reason according to him is more from professionals engaged in infrastructure: surveyors, engineers, geographers and facility operators come from different background and at times fail to have the holistic view. Well maybe the integration will not come from the individual segment stakeholder but from the project implementing agencies and as a part of standard laid out for the project, which will make it compulsory to have the seamless integration of data and information between various segment works.
Looking at the situation prevailing in India and other countries in the Asian region, following are the factors, we feel are important for increasing usage of geospatial technology for infrastructure project: (1) Availability of the spatial data and it regular updation by nodal agencies or NMOs (2) Enabling environment with encouraging policy frameworks for use of geospatial data (3) Human resource development to exploit the geospatial technologies (4) Large scale participation of government stakeholders (5) Wide scale adoption of data standards and interoperability by different professional units in a project life-cycle (6) Geospatial technology benefits awareness and belief in its civil use amongst the decision makers: politicians and public administrators.