When I was in class 6th, in my middle school, in one of the term exams, I had in my English paper a topic to write a 300 words essay on: “My Classroom”. A valorous feeling arising out of novel thought riding strong on ignorance of consequences made me critique the topic and proceed with my essay saying a classroom is a concrete structure and lifeless, until you have lively students there. What followed was something, which I at best would like to forget.
Almost three decades down the lane, today, I get the similar feeling of describing the geospatial industry in a similar fashion. We are talking about data standards, data interoperability, data ethics, geospatial open source software and RoI associated with GIS. But where is the data? It is an analogous situation of having an excellent classroom structure, with table, chairs, fans, blackboard, duster, chalks and pin board which has the moral stories pinned up, but no lively students.
The annual SDI festival of India, the 6th NSDI Conference, which took place last June in Goa, had most of the NMOs present to discuss the future road map of the much awaited NSDI for India. 67 representatives from about 12 government data producing departments in India had gathered for the sixth time in almost seven years, to deliberate upon the status of national SDI. Rather than talking about what their organisation had done for NSDI, most of the NMOs gave an overview of their activities during the last year. What is alarming is the availability and access of data between the government departments. For example the soil data required by forest survey has been a long story with ‘soil survey’ failing to interpret whether they are on the right side of the law, if they provide the asked datasets to ‘forest survey’.
How can the availability of spatial data from soil survey department for forest department be a concern to ‘National Security’? It was suggested that New Mapping Policy has to be understood to further proceed with providing data to another government organisation. Why can’t we have specific mapping law, at least for the government interdepartmental data exchange? Why do we make the policies which become a subject of interpretation?
As far as the private sector is concerned they will have to continue with the empty classroom syndrome for some more time to come. Better still, they can take solace from RS Pawar, Chairman & Co-Founderof NIIT group: “Ignore impediments, let the time pass…!”.
Maybe it is time for us to graduate our demand from “Data Ownership” to “Data Access”, as put across by Rajesh Mathur, President, NIIT GIS. For sure, when the new baby called ‘Easy Access to Spatial Data’, comes into the picture, it will have to do with lot of nanny rules: Data Standards, Interoperability and Ethics. It will miss out the evolution of the geospatial data social framework.