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India needs to invest in databases

Jack Dangermond
President, ESRI Inc.

India needs to invest in databases

  • What according to you are the major strengths and weakness for the GIS growth in India?
    The strength is the need. This country needs GIS enormously for better population control, better environment, transport and better quality of life. This all needs a GIS at work. The weakness of the GIS market here is the lack of data for GIS.
  • Could you elaborate on the data aspect?
    India is unable to avail the benefit of GIS technology due to paucity of data, which is needed for evaluating and analysing geographical inputs. GIS can help better management of resources and decision making, both for government and private sector, but the concept works on data, which is needed to take these decisions. Indian has not invested much in developing this social infrastructure. America has already spend $10 billion in getting data for GIS which has certainly helped better planning and management.

    In the US even the forest management is done by using GIS where one can see the existing trees, plant new trees and even set time to cut mature trees. Very few people open office locations and shops without referring to The GIS. Even the Mc Donalds use GIS for business decisions.

  • Many governments are investing in development indigenous GIS. Your Comments.
    In any GIS implementation 60 per cent cost is associated with data, 20 percent is associated with computer hardware, five per cent is one software and 10 per cent is on applications. The balance cost is divided among personnel and organisation structure. The development of GIS software has failed in many countries. I think that the governments like India should be investing heavily on data base development for the country, than reinventing the wheel by developing GIS software. Development of indigenous GIS software by the governments has failed in many countries like Korea, Japan and even America (GRASS is the example). I see no reason why India should invest in this programme.
  • What changes do you see in the GIS scenario of India after your last visit here?
    I see that there is a lot of change since my last visit to India in 1996. At that time, the GIS as a technology was important to users, and now it is data. at that time, they were just doing projects now I see a departmental system envisioned. I hope the next time I will see several departments working together.

    Another major change is the emergence of CSDMS and [email protected] This means that there is medium for GIS community in India to communicate, and share knowledge with each other. I feel that this magazine will give a boost to the growth of GIS in the country.

    Another positive development I see is that there are private companies who have come up which are providing services in the field of GIS.

    And this time I see that there are more senior decision-makers from user organisations attending the ESRI/ERDAS User Conference. This indicates that the GIS technology is now being taken seriously at the top level..

  • The internet is changing the overall growth of GIS technology. New file formats are emerging to facilitate openness in data transfer. Do you plan to shift from the shape file format of ESRI to some new internet oriented file format?
    I feel that shape files are becoming de facto standard. We are evolving more intelligence to it. We have no plan to change the format for internet.
  • ESRI is well known for its collaboration with universities. What has been the reason behind it?
    One of the biggest reason for success of ESRI is its collaboration with universities. They give us 11% of our totalrevenue. We made our first sale of software in 1980 to a university. I feel that educational institutions have a major role to play in the growth of GIS in India as well.
  • Could you elaborate on the ESRI’s commitment to promote GIS education?
    ESRI has undertaken a project with the National Geographic Society in US to provide scholarship to students with best GIS projects. Both the partners would be putting in about $1 million for scholarship to students. GIS is a widely talked and read about subject there but it is not so popular in India. US school children are doing projects on limiting lead poisoning, restoring forests and other environmental issues using GIS and I think it should gain popularity here as well.
  • What’s the role GIS has to play in business, and how much support government should provide in developing business GIS applications?
    There are a number of cases where businesses have failed because of choosing the wrong location. On the other hand, company like Sears is saving $27 million annually through its better supply-chain management by using GIS. It saves around 16% cost in transportation, which means 16% less pollution, 16% saving fuel for the country. The governments help themselves by supporting GIS applications in business.