Prof. Arup Dasgupta
An existential dilemma faced by geospatial practitioners is the retention of their unique identity as the technology becomes increasingly integrated into the day-to-day operations of different disciplines. The days of ‘remote sensing for agriculture’ and ‘GIS for rural development’ are long gone. Such titles were catchy in seminars and conferences but in the humdrum of real life it is more about crop insurance, fixing support prices, rural road connectivity and land acquisition for industries. Remote Sensing, GIS, GPS, LiDAR and other clever technologies are part of the armoury of professionals in addressing these real life issues. The professional here is a domain expert with geospatial knowledge and not the other way around.
For example, land management, the theme this month, is all about policies, processes and institutions that administer these. The administration may require, among other data, error-free measurement of plots, unique locations, details of tenure, equitable tax determination and so on. It also needs people’s participation and consent and above all transparency in all the dealings. Today modern land management must also take into account issues related to rapid urbanisation, sustainable development and the challenges of global warming and climate change. Technology does provide means of transparent, accurate and efficient data acquisition and processing but that is not the whole story.
The choice of technology is bewildering and this is where the geospatial professional can play a significant role by selecting technologies to suit the situation and finances. The integration of the land information system with e-governance and other IT systems is essential and this is where convergence becomes important. It is here that the geospatial practitioner must necessarily submerge his identity in the general technology pool that is needed for the task on hand. The domain expert in this situation will opt for the best approach.
On the other hand, the recent advances in technologies, particularly earth observations, have opened new vistas. Here too the focus is on practical applications like land subsidence, urban development, water resources management, coastal zone management, marine environment, agriculture and forestry. It is interesting to note that ESA’s efforts in this area is not through technology-oriented institutes but through multilateral development banks, clearly illustrating the need for convergence of technologies, processes and institutions. In land management the talk is of systems ‘fit for purpose’, a term that can be extended to many other applications.
This mantra of convergence is leading to many initiatives. During a recent conclave, GeoQuest 2014, it could be observed that many geospatial companies are in the throes of acquiring companies which bring together a bouquet of technologies that can provide integrated solutions — sometimes solutions under a common GUI. Others, while remaining true to their technical prowess do acknowledge the need to converge with other systems. It is interesting to note that OGC now offers standards for many converged systems.
Therefore it is time now for all professionals to submerge their individual egos and converge to provide solutions that will lead to a sustainable world.