‘Google’! This is something we do first in our office. And do it several times in the day and perhaps also the last thing in our offices and homes. Each one of us is happy to find it as one’s own guide to the world. With it, we remain always informed, as long we are connected. Then out of nowhere, one day we did find that it has become a GIS player too. And perhaps the biggest one overnight. How did that happen?
Google decided to buyout a company called Keyhole around a year back. This came as a small news item when it happened in October last year, and did not occupy more than an inch of space in the top mainstream newspapers of the world. One year later, almost all the leading newspapers of the world are competing with each other to say something good or bad about ‘Google Earth’.
What Google has done to the geographic information community of a restrictive and bureaucratic mindset country like India and others would perhaps not have been gauged by Google itself (one must never underestimate Google anyway!) Google has simply given access with Google Earth. Access to geographic information in a fairly democratic way in the hands of everyone (having Internet), without discriminating on the basis of who is who – government staff, academician, student, NGO, private sector, defence staff, etc. It has made any restrictive regime – of withholding geographic information – a big joke.
Google Earth is also giving us an opportunity to re-look at our Remote Sensing and GIS related policies. In Remote Sensing, our country has kept a noble single-minded focus on launching satellites. The dissemination and usage aspect have perhaps remained the last priority. And the common citizen, its last customer! In surveying and mapping, the focus has not been much different. The idea has been to limit, restrict, and find ways of not giving information for one reason or another.
Google has shown that opportunities are never lost! They are just picked up by someone else. It is high time that the Survey of India and National Remote Sensing Agency and all similar departments in the region decide if they want to play the key role in the geo-information business. Because Google, Microsoft and Yahoo wouldn’t wait to gobble up this lucrative market anyway!