e-Governance is emerging as the next big thing in the bureaucratic circles of many Asian countries. The World Bank is seeing this as a new opportunity for lending. Many UN organisations have started supporting this concept in a big way, and with the active visionaries like the Singapore government and other initiatives from developed as well as the developing countries showing the way, there is no dearth of hype in e-Governance surrounding us.
In comparison to this, I place the concept of National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI), which also is and has been propagated with a lot of fanfare and hype. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) NSDI has remained the agenda of few ministries in science, space and informatics but has not gone beyond that. The other government departments, both upstream and downstream have done little than giving a lip service to this proposal. Why so? How many ‘takers’ of NSDI have materialised in the mainstream government machinery?
e-Governance revolves around tapping on the potential of digital aspects like ICT for the purpose of governance and administration primarily. Likewise, NSDI mainly talks of seamless integration and aggregation of digital spatial data. Clearly it is not the same thing in two different attires but one also cannot deny the crossovers and strong potentials between the two concepts. In this scenario, can we afford to think of the e-Governance hype as another opportunity for the SDI community to piggyback and reach newer users faster than ever? Can we, ‘the SDI team’ hop on to the ‘e-Gov bus’ and move on to reach our destination? What is the harm?
All said and done, one again shouldn’t forget that in countries with huge mental bottlenecks, we do need ‘hype cycles’ like the dot-com, or the e-Governance etc. to help make a dent in the otherwise steel-framed mindsets and systems of governance existing.
Can we now afford to miss this bus?