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Tell them that the tree they had planted has grown!!!

Ravi Gupta It is intriguing to see many national mapping agencies, both in mapping and remote sensing, are trying to compete tooth and nail with the private sector for getting GIS related projects floated by the government and others. From one angle it appears gratifying, as it is an indication that these National Mapping Organisations (NMOs) are proactive and aware of the market needs and demands and are thus trying to respond to it well. But on the other side, if we start looking at the raison d’etre of these organisations, they were essentially formed to develop capacities of a nation in terms of providing spatial data within and outside the government. Many countries like Canada, USA, UK and Australia are taking the advantage of the capabilities of the private sector and they are helping it in finding opportunities to play more proactive role in satellite launching, development of satellites, setting up of the data receiving stations, processing of these data-sets and generation of spatial data products. The whole process is being handled by the private sector in active collaboration with and under the policy guidelines of their respective national governments.

But in a country like India, which engages in a variety of remote sensing activities, it is rather amazing to find that the government run remote sensing agencies are competing with private sector for projects, and the competition becomes unfair since the government departments who float tenders (which are the main provider of these jobs) prefer hiring a government organisation for doing a job as it becomes procedurally simpler (being a government to government transaction), it becomes inquiry proof (again since a government agency was hired to do the job) and finally of unquestionable quality (since a government agency has done the job).

The monopolistic tendencies are visible in other domains too. The sole authority for providing the remote sensing data generated by Indian satellites or by the foreign ones rest with the government agencies. While a customer outside India can procure data within a week, but it may normally take more than a year for the agencies providing these in India.

What is emerging is a frustrating situation in which Indian customers of high-resolution remote sensing data are being forced to meet their requirements through manipulative ways from foreign sources. I am sure that similar discrepancies are occurring in many other countries where the NMOs are forgetting that they need to move up the value chain by letting the private sector do what it can.

Will someone tell them that the tree they had planted has grown?
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