The Indian geospatial ecosystem at the state-level is at the cusp of a technological and development curve. Leaders at the center and state-level are taking a planned approach to tap into the many opportunities available.
The Indian economy is at a pivotal point with the economy leaping forward to take over China as the world’s fastest growing economy at 7.2%. A key engine of the global economic growth, India is currently the world’s seventh largest economy and is projected to be the world’s second-largest economy, behind only China, in 2050.
As one of the largest (and diverse) democratic country, India is constantly finding ways to comprehend and unravel solutions to bridge the disparity in its economic and social character. It is in this democratic character, lies a critical need to develop an integrated and collaborative approach to harness the true potential of the geospatial sector for transforming governance, to drive consumer, business and societal benefits, and to promote and sustain innovation and entrepreneurship for national competitiveness in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (industry 4.0).
Geospatial User Adoption in India: States perspective
India is often said to be ‘not a nation of many states, but a state of many nations.’ Comprising of diverse states and union territories (29 states and 7 UTs), divided and defined on their historical contexts and geographical uniformities, the magnitudes of adoption and integration of geographical solutions differ from state to state.
An overview of the 29 states and 7 UTs for explicit GIS policy/strategy document and an in-depth analysis of their ICT (or IT and ITes) policies found only three states with a GIS policy/or strategy document. Furthermore, only 14 states and three UTs were found to be having ICT policies mentioning geographical information, GIS or Remote Sensing
Moreover, the geospatial ecosystem at the state level is at the cusp of a technological and development curve. Decision makers at the center and at state-level are taking cognizance of the integrated approach to meet the aspirational visions and distributed delivery structures for effective and efficient sustainable development and planning. To capture a rational perspective of state-level adoption, and as part of the Indian Geospatial Economy study, one-day workshops named, ‘Geospatial Strategy Forum’, were conducted all over India to deliberate on critical need scenarios and socio-economic imperatives, the findings of which are presented hereafter.
At present, at a state-level, use of satellite imagery and GIS solutions for visualization, project planning, and decision-making purposes lead the use for engineering level design and modeling software and location analytics by a huge margin. A case in point is the GIS mapping of all properties in 33 cities for property tax compliance. The base data for the map is to be created using satellite imagery by Maharashtra Remote Sensing Agency (MHRSA) with financial outlay of INR 2,600 million.
Furthermore, the relatively low use of location data analytics, BIM/3D Modeling and LiDAR and Total Stations (TS) at the department level showcases scope for deeper integration and embedment to derive productivity, cost and resource efficiency (Graph 1). Steps are being taken for integration of BIM/3D Modelling in many states. For instance, Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA) which is responsible for the development of Amravati City, has prepared its base map using Worldview images (0.7 m resolution) and necessitated every building design to be BIM compliant.
At the state level, map-based data visualization for department level coordination, resource management, and monitoring is of key significance. GIS integration for workflow management and GIS-based integrated citizen services is still at a nascent stage (Graph 2). A case in point is the Project Monitoring Information Systems (PMIS) mobile app designed to facilitate in-house monitoring of NHAI projects on a mobile phone. Additionally, in a Government of India project, the UP Agriculture Statistic and Crop Insurance department is using Smartphone GPS for ground truth verification of crop area statistics of five crops — potato, paddy, wheat, sugarcane, and mustard.
Geospatial User Adoption in India: Benefits and challenges
The benefits of adopting geospatial solutions are many. Improved information sharing within multi-location team, better progress monitoring, better asset management, productivity gains and cost savings continue to be the primary benefits of integrating geospatial information management systems and technology solutions for the state departments. Enhanced revenue/fee collection, pilferage control, better human resource management and work allocation and transparency gains are benefits wherein the potential of spatial technology integration has not been tapped yet (Graph 3).
Listing of major challenges in geospatial technology establishes maximum stress on ‘lack of exposure to benchmark use cases and training’ followed by lack of in-house capacities to design procurement guidelines and high-cost implications of adoption of geospatial technology. These challenges represent a situation of ‘geospatial divide’, as it becomes difficult to push for technology adoption due to a combination of ‘comprehension, cost perception, and skill constraints’(Graph 4).
The challenges faced in every state at department level, showcases an opportunity for the technology solution providers (and also the decision makers at user end) to create structured interfaces such as industry workgroups, institutional tie-ups for knowledge resource centres, online query management systems, field demonstrations etc. to educate and engage stakeholders so as to expand the market opportunities.
In order to address the technology divide, the government and the private sector have already begun taking steps. For instance, the Maharashtra government has signed a MoU with Oracle corporation to establish a Centre of Excellence (COE) in Mumbai to design, develop and test new capabilities such as mobile platform to address service queries, unified app development, flexible and scalable frameworks, robust IT infrastructure to accelerate digital transformation initiatives.
Geospatial User Adoption in India: The road ahead
The road ahead to build India as a ‘geospatially ready’ country is long and difficult but filled with opportunity at every turn. As the government mandates the use of geospatial information and technology in 160+ schemes and national programs, there lies an opportunity for the technology solution providers and decision makers to tap on to the true potential of geospatial information and technologies for accelerating the economic growth of the country. The geospatial industry is shifting from a ‘top-down’ to a ‘bottom-up’ driven industry as the dynamics of investment in geospatial data collection and application data becomes increasingly driven by digital governance and citizen services management.
In this regard, a study on the Indian Geospatial Economy is being conducted by Geospatial Media and Communications, for the invested stakeholder community to understand the geospatial technology ecosystem and reorient and reorganize themselves so as to enable and empower the country and its citizens to achieve their economic and social goals. The on-going study establishes the need of a broad consensus on the use and benefits of geospatial technology solutions across central and state government structures. For the same purpose, it is realized that individual state level geospatial infrastructure and policies are much needed for enhanced adoption so as to ensure a transparent governance structure, efficiency and effectiveness of government policies, schemes, and programs, and earn higher economic and development gains on public investments.
The demand for analytics and end-to-end geospatial solutions for a developing country like India is of great significance. The use of geospatial technology and solutions can significantly bolster economic resilience and development activities, and help address social and demographic challenges – creating a robust foundation for India to achieve the New India – Vision 2022.