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EditorSpeak: Geospatial management for growth

Prof. Arup Dasgupta
Managing Editor
[email protected]

During the Davos Conclave a Panel on India concluded that India is on the growth path. The percentage of growth varied from a pessimistic 7.5 to an optimistic 10 percent. No one on the panel doubted India’s growth story but there were certain ifs. These mainly related to India’s infrastructure, power and bureaucracy. What lessons do we get from these conclusions for the geospatial arena?

I believe that India’s growth story needs, nay, demands geospatial solutions. Take infrastructure; a report by McKinsey on India’s urban growth postulates that by 2030 urban India will need an investment of Rs 60 trillion to provide 700 to 900 million sq m of commercial and residential space, 2.5 billion sq m of paved roads and 7400 million km of metro rail and subways. These are mind boggling numbers and no country in the world will face such challenges because India has one of the highest population density in the world and land is the most valuable, coveted and indemand asset; an asset that has multiple claimants. To address this issue there is no alternative to geospatial management. I use the term geospatial management to indicate that all planning, implementation, monitoring and operations will have to be based on geospatial technology. The JNNRUM has come not a minute too soon and its efficient implementation is a dire necessity. Similarly the other two big projects, R-APDRP and NLRMP also have included a very strong core of geospatial technologies tightly integrated with IT, ERP and CRM. These projects are harbingers of the opportunities that are latent in India.

India is fortunate that the government and the political class are committed to modern science and technology. India’s remote sensing programme is one of the most comprehensive in the world and Indian users will never be left without an Indian ‘eye in the sky’. Similarly, India’s communications infrastructure is well supported by satellite communications and a huge fibre optic network which is being expanded to every panchayat (large village or conglomeration of villages). The way geospatial technology has been adopted for the projects mentioned above is also very encouraging. One wishes things could have moved faster but then in India things move at their own pace! A reason for this is the baggage of legacy. Relatively new organisations tend to adopt to new technologies faster than those which have been around longer.

The cause for concern is the lack of trained professionals and industry’s over dependence on offshore work. The education system, right from school, needs to introduce geospatial technology subjects including physical geography. Industry needs to look at opportunities in India not just in data conversion but in advanced areas like modelling. At Davos one of the points that went against India was its over dependence on services. Indian manufacturing needs to pick up. To draw a lesson from this observation applicable to the geospatial world, India must concentrate on innovating not just applications but in the core technologies itself.