Home Articles Maponomics: Is anybody accountable for the savings lost?

Maponomics: Is anybody accountable for the savings lost?

Maneesh Prasad
Director, GIS Development
[email protected]

The Florida Geographic Information Board (GIB) realises approximately $14 million on $3.5 million investment1.

…a State Government-wide GIS planning study found that total benefits of $312 million can be expected from a $56 million investment in GIS, giving a cost-benefit ratio of 5.5:12.

These savings are by the virtue of the mapping activities undertaken by a National Mapping Agencies (NMA) or central agencies responsible for maps generation and distribution. This helps avoid duplication of effort by the project implementing agencies (IA) and further save time, along with the benefits of GIS in planning and support

Who needs map data?
In India substantial amount of investment is foreseen in the infrastructure segment which will look forward to mapping services.

Electricity: The electricity bill, although it has seen 8 drafts by National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), the comprehensive reforms will see use of GIS for distribution and long distance transmission as a part of their increased IT spending for better effeciency and profitability. The Ministry of Power envisions power for all by 2012. This will be only after 100,000 MW of additional capacity for power generation is added or an investment of Rs. 4,00,000 crores or US$80 Billion. Not to get into the debate of who will invest and what can be the role of private players, even a part investment will mean additional revenue for transmission and distribution, i.e. more money in the GIS’s kitty. Under the existing situation where only 55% of the electricity generated is billed and 41% is realised. This too leaves a large vacuum for GIS solution which can plug the undesired draining of scarce national revenue.

Telecommunication: Opening up of telecom sector witnessed private investment and cheers by the consumer due to waning monopolistic aura of state enterprises. Large scale data was the primary need of many of these telecom enterprises and has been a driving force in the Indian GIS industry. The National Long Distance Telephony, easing out of Basic Telecom Services and private industry players participating in this sector will see the growing use of GIS for planning, implementation and monitoring of the services.

Roads & Railways: The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) with its Golden Quadrilateral Project and National Highway Development Programme (NHDP) resulting in increased spending by the State government for State Highways and District Roads has already seen surveying and mapping in the project implementation and monitoring. We may further see GIS providing its traditional benfits in decision support system.

How much they will spend on mapping?
The Domestic Financial Investment sanctions in India for the year 2000-2001 stood at Rs. 87,000 crores for the infrastructure sector. Going by the standard expenditure in the surveying and mapping involved in the infrastructure projects in the range of 2-3% of the total project cost it comes to ~1700-2500 crores. When there is availability of maps with NMAs, the IAs do not have to generate spatial data individually, hence avoiding the duplicity of effort. If the availablity of data at large scale is not there, the generation of large scale maps are carried out by the IAs.

Whereas no such information exists on how much money is being spent on generating maps in India by the leading NMAs and what has been the saving to the nation, there are estimates from the various sources as mentioned above which puts the ratio at: Investment:Savings :: 1:5 (This in certain cases goes beyond 1:10).

A saving of Rs. 800 crores (assuming that most of IAs have to invest only 2% of the project cost as most of the required data are available with NMAs) would just need an investment of 160 crores from the government of India even if we go by the investment to savings ratio of 1:5.

While the Indian GIS industry has been estimated to be in the range of Rs. 400 crores (US $ 80-85), large chunk of this 400 crore industry can be attributed to offshore map digitisation contracts and local unorganised project to project based mapping service3.

The Indian GIS market is on the threshold of explosion. We can see savings of hundreds of crores but for the GREAT IDEAS on MAPONOMICS. These ideas which will outlive the human self.


  1. Florida Geographic Information Board, Strategic Plan 2000/2001 – 2004/2005
  2. A holistic cost-benefit approach to justifying organisation-wide GIS
  3. GIS Development News dated 1st of Feb’2002)