For those who have travelled, especially to lands with languages different than what they are accustomed with, facing situations of inadequate communication must have been a part of their memories. Even though we somehow manage with signs and gestures, the need for some common words or a language is felt deeply. The aspect that I am trying to delve upon is something very simple, yet critical. The issue of being compatible and interoperable is felt not only in languages, but in most situations of our day-to-day life. When we intend to move from local to beyond it becomes a necessity. Even though evolution of most elements of nature has in-built commonalities, the development of cultures and civilizations have created rational anomalies and differences – in lifestyles, in linguistics, in art and in many other things. Interoperability – the main theme of this issue – is all about the argument of bridging these gaps, however in a slightly different gamut.
Understanding interoperability in the arena of GIS and its application, is tricky, no doubt. Most industries embarking upon GIS have been relatively slow to adapt to various platforms, especially in novice situations. Further, in such milieu, most industries have maintained an alliance to a certain vendor, a certain system or a certain set of application disciplines. It might also be said that most prospective investors into the geospatial arena are also guided (often unintentionally) as to what must be the investment with regards to the needs. Since there were not too many players in the field at a certain time, vendors also priced their products rather high. And this steep pricing was aimed at firstly, someone convinced and willing to buy the product, and secondly to someone who would be sticking to the product in the future. As a result, most vendors had to create some degree of dependence on the product. This approach is absolutely acceptable considering the limited and focused formation of the GIS market.
However, the situation changes with dissemination of information, now becoming a public right. As indoctrinated now that information alone holds the key to empowered development, the need to step over boundaries and learn from the best practices is imminent. As traditional boundaries between organizations, disciplines and societies begin to blur – researchers, administrators and decision makers increasingly require access to information from wide range of sources, both within and without their own subject area. Hence, the emergence of discussions and research upon common platforms, common languages and ‘openness’.
At this juncture, how much of ‘openness’ and ‘interoperability’ can we achieve, it is worth waiting to watch for.