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Govt mandate has created demand for geospatial professionals

Dr A. Senthil Kumar, Director, Indian Institute of Remote Sensing
Dr A. Senthil Kumar, Director, Indian Institute of Remote Sensing

How will we find trained human resources for the 160 projects initiated by 85 ministries and departments?

This is a huge task. We are planning to start with training the trainers. From each of these departments implementing the projects that will use geospatial data, people will be selected and those persons will be trained accordingly at various centers. These people will further be training their subordinates in the future.

What are the plans to create a continuous supply of geospatial professionals to take care of future projects?

Our programs in remote sensing and GIS have been long. We will be continuing to include training of the young professionals after their graduate degrees. We also have short-terms courses wherein many students participate. Further, there are courses for decision-makers wherein senior professionals who are engaged in decision-making processes at various levels can also be trained. We will be focussing more on advance technologies like digital video programs and so on.

While the industry complains that they are not getting trained hands, some institutions complain that their students do not get proper jobs. Where is the disconnect? 

There are good opportunities in the market… In fact, so far remote sensing in GIS has been in R&D phase and people who are trained from our institute as well as other institutions have always found good job opportunities, particularly in the research field, as well as placements in other centers like government and as academic institutions. The technology landscape is growing very fast, thanks to the central government initiative of bringing geospatial technology to the forefront and connecting it with governance. There is a lot of scope and the job market will get better.

Has the recent stress on use of spatial technologies in government department helped in generating more enthusiasm for research and study in geospatial technology?

Many of our IIRS alumni are well spread and they have been recognized for their research. What is happening today is the central government mandate for use of spatial technologies has resulted in a lot of activities in the departments. This has led to fresh recruitments of geospatial professionals. Also, training requirement of non-geospatial staff is coming to us — we are training mid-level as well as basic-level people to make them understand how geospatial technology can be used for their day-to-day application and long-term programs.

Should we have separate remote sensing and GIS courses or should we include these topics in existing natural resources courses?

Remote sensing and GIS are already a part of the NCERT program. In fact, from Class IX onwards, school curriculums have an introduction about remote sensing and GIS. Since geography teachers are not well trained in these aspects, ISRO has taken a very strong initiative to train the geography teachers. This was done in collaboration with the NCERT team in Delhi. Our main strength is EDUSAT, which is an e-learning program. I am sure the benefits are going to be much more now that we are moving from normal classes to digital classes.

What is the scope of geospatial research in India?

It has a very huge potential. Education has three axes — economy, education and empowerment — and geospatial technologies encompass all three fields. In the US and other advanced countries, geospatial professionals are in huge demand, and it is a fact that they are better paying jobs as compared to computer science, etc. When there is a demand from the government for this technology, there will always be plenty of opportunities for youngsters.

Will IIRS expand its international presence?

Yes. We already have an international program. We are conducting a 9-month training program for CSSTEP [Center for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific]. It was recognized by the United Nations as one of the first centers for capacity building in the Asia-Pacific region participants to improve and utilize the space technology for various applications.