Maponomics: The Economics of Maps
Maps have traditionally been a state responsibility. Governments have invested heavily in building survey and mapping infrastructure first for defense and then for development purposes.
Over the decades, especially, the last two, there is a different trend emerging. Governments are looking for return on investments made. And erstwhile users of maps in the private and the NGO sector are fast emerging as the providers of maps, thanks to the mind-boggling pace of development of information and communication technologies.
This is leading to a new and interesting dynamics in the map market place. An Indian IT company like Reliance Infocom is investing around 50 crores to build up a GIS databases of the areas they are serving in terms of optic-fibre networks, cable network, internet and basic phone connections. Many other IT and telecom companies are also investing similar amounts of money in building this type of geographical information infrastructure. These investments in total are much more than the budgets of the several National Mapping Agencies (NMAs) combined in India.
In this situation, it may happen that these databases soon start being sold as off-the-shelf products (as it is happening in USA, Europe and many other countries) and then comes the question of what these NMAs will do? What will be their role?
In the context of this changing scenario, we bring to you this issue of the magazine focused on Maponomics, in which some views nationally and internationally have been highlighted. There are many more new ‘converts’ like the Health sector, which is investing a lot of time and energy in exploring the usage of maps for solving their problems.
We do live in interesting times.