Government should be in administration and policy implimentation, indicating what the boundary...

Government should be in administration and policy implimentation, indicating what the boundary condition are.


In Holland, most of the infrastructure is provided by three organisations. The Topographic Survey which officially is important for the Ministry of Defence and comparable with Survey of India. Prof. Karl Harmsen, Former Rector, ITC, The Netherlands
Prof. Karl Harmsen
Former Rector, ITC, The Netherlands [email protected]

  • Tell us something about the mapping policy of Holland?

    In Holland, most of the infrastructure is provided by three organisations. The Topographic Survey which officially is important for the Ministry of Defence and comparable with Survey of India. The Cadastral Survey, which has been recently been privatised. Then there is survey department of National Water Authority (NWA) which in a country like Holland which is half below sea level, becomes very important. NWA is measuring water levels. Now the Topographic Survey will also be privatized and they will be merged with Cadastral Service.

    In Netherland we feel that time has come to privatize the services. At the same time there is legislation which ensure that these organisations do exactly what the tasks of these organization are. So we make sure that the essential tasks are being done. Privatisation has ensured their profitability. In Holland the philosophy is that Government should be in administration and policy implementation. They should indicate what the boundary conditions are. Government does not conduct the task themselves, or execute them, they implement policies. Execution is left to private bodies and the government controls and ensures that it is done. 

    In Holland we have provinces and municipalities. At Government level we have general policies for Spatial Planning of Netherland. Spatial infrastructure implementation is done at the provincial level for infrastructural work, nature conservation, areas for agriculture, areas for other purposes. Down in the cities, the municipalities will do the town planing, which can be for the residential areas, for industries and so on. Decentralisation is the key word now in Holland.

  • What could India’s NGDI learn from it?

    I will not be telling what India has to do but in general, it is best to have totally open data policy from a practical point of view. You do perceive enemies, but data is all around, 1 metre. Satellite data is now available in the market, for military satellite some centimeter resolution is available. So now how do you protect yourself. In, my view policy of open data is the best. Open data is also a protection against effects from other countries or certain real problems because people know exactly about your strengths. We feel that by sharing of data it may be better against any unfortunate incidents.

  • ITC being primarily a training institute, what are its future plans in the wake of distance learning courses being offered on the web?

    ITC fully realises that there is long term potential of distant learning using the  web. We are developing distance learning modules  for Delft University, who is our prime partner in Netherlands and they specialize in distance learning.

    However, at the same time I would like to emphasise, we are an institute under Ministry of Education and Science in Netherland which is funding  ODA (Officially Development Assistance), which means all of our course funded activities are focusing on low income countries. 

    We have to be realistic with our main focus on south Africa and south east Asian continent to be class room teaching, hard copy document and so on. We believe in it because Internet does not reach all of our clients and we do not expect so in next 5 years. But we know in the end it will change, there’s no doubt about it. So I think let us continue with out traditional method of teaching say for 5-10 years and also we are preparing our distance learning and web based teaching which will become efficient in the coming years.

    The reshift in the market is also important for us. We are developing products There are source universities that have access to internet especially the Information & Technology departments, there are number of government departments like Deptartment of Space. In Private sector we have many Information & Technology companies, some NGOs, etc. There is reshift in market in countries like India, South Africa particularly in Southern Africa  towards internet and special software products. To make them efficient we are doing the training and education and so on. We are doing that by providing training to govt agencies and sometimes also for the private sector company.

  • What are your suggestions for improving the GIS education in India?

    ITC works in India in particularly three large government organization, first Department of Space, NRSA, second Survey of India, particularly with training institute in Hyderabad, third Geological Survey of India in its training institute of Hyderabad.

    The main collaboration earlier was with the IPI, Dehradoon which came under Survey of India and Department of Science & Technology which is now Indian Institute of Remote Sensing. We were associated with it since its inception in establishing the institute. Of course many Indian partners were involved with ITC staff stationed at that time, in Dehradun, were instrumental in establishing the institute and also establishing the first course and developing the course material, training resource, power and so on. I think that was in early 70’s.

    We are concentrating on the establishment of course on Geoinformatics at the Master of Science level and the other course in the Hazard Mitigation and Disaster Management which I can say is very important now in India with cyclone in Orissa last year and most recent earthquake we have had in Gujarat. I believe if there is coordinated work, private and others in the  society can provide the information through an Integrated National Earth Spatial Data Infrastructure.

  • Could you tell us about the influence of  Geo-informatics education on development works?

    Question of influence is not so simple. As you know ITC is an international educational institute. We also do some practical services and research but at first place our focus in on education, training to the research development, capacity building, institutional strengthening. That is our target.

    (ITC, was established 50 years ago. We have trained some 15 to 20 thousands students, professionals in mean time from about 150 countries.) So the question of is where do you measure the impact? I think influence as such should be measured in two different levels. First is the level of the organisation that our students and professional come from, the organisation like Geological Survey or Government organisation. If you want to measure the impact the question down is whether the professionals, the students do apply the knowledge that they have acquired. If they apply it whether there work is more efficient, more effective, whether they feel that they work better after the training than before and whether the outcome of work is more.

    Second level to measure is of that of professional organisation that the person works in. That organisation deals with number of Government agencies, planners, extension agents and in the end it deals with public at large, the workers, the farmers, the women, the poor in the society. So the question down is whether the credit of these organisation be matched on day to day basis or recommendations or policies are more effective and that is cause of introduction of Geo-informatics and remote sensing. That is the case where we have had an impact. 

    Some areas where we have had specific influence is eg. Famine early warning system in West Africa. They have largely used ITC training and they have developed the people. Whether it is food distribution in areas of food deficit, or in production field it has definitely helped people. There is no example like this where we had impact.