National Geospatial Data Infrastructure: Towards a Road Map for India

National Geospatial Data Infrastructure: Towards a Road Map for India


Spatial Information is a national resource and society and government have a right access it. This was the essence of the NGDI workshop. A report Encapsulating the maps and images into National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) is the need of the hour and the emphasis has to be on information transparency and sharing, with the recognition that the spatial information is a national resource and citizens, society, private enterprise and government have a right to access it, appropriately. Only through common conventions and technical agreements, standards, metadata definitions, network and access protocols will it be easily possible for the NSDI to come into existence,” Dr. K. Kasturirangan, Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) writes in the foreword of Discussion Document on National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI): Strategy and Action Plan. And exactly these were the issues, that dominated the two day workshop on “National Geospatial Data Infrastructure (NGDI): Towards a Road Map for India” held in New Delhi at Hotel Intercontinental during February 5-6, 2001.

Fig. 1: Inaugral session- Lt. Gen. A. K. Ahuja, David W. Rhind, V. S. Ramamurthy, Bachi Singh Rawat, Peter Holland, Karl Harmsen, M. P. Naryanan, Amitabh Pandey (from L to R)

The workshop was organised by Centre for Spatial Database Management and Solutions (CSDMS). The workshop was sponsored by Department of Science and Technology and Department of Space and co-sponsored by Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Information Technology, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Surface Transport, Ministry of Mines and Minerals, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation and Planning Commission. Involvement of so many ministries of Government of India itself reflects upon the seriousness of the Government is on this issue. The workshop was attended by over 250 delegates from Government, academia, GIS industry from India as well as from abroad.

The workshop started with a film on NGDI that highlighted the importance of spatial data in national development. It focussed on the relationship between the common man and the technology. Dr. M. P. Narayanan, while welcoming the participants emphasised on the need and importance of NGDI as the concept basically entails with the fundamental issue “Right to Information”. In his introductory remark, Lt. Gen. A. K. Ahuja, Surveyor General of India highlighted the role of information infrastructure for the growth of economy, development and better quality of life. He emphasised on the importance of data sharing and also on standardisation of data exchange format. Professor David Rhind, Vice-chancellor, City University, London appreciated that India has taken such a major initiative in developing the NGDI, but it needs major investment, he cautioned. Professor V. S. Ramamurthy, Secretary, Department of Science and Technolgy deliberated on various aspects of NGDI. He said that NGDI does not intend to take away data from an organisation but it attempts to make data available. He highlighted the long tradition of survey in India and appreciated Survey of India and National Remote Sensing Agency for their commendable jobs. He emphasised that technology should University, the Netherlands, and on Advancing the concept NGDI. Reflections on Bottom Line by Yola Georgiadou, ITC, the Netherlands.

In the evening, meeting of two working groups were held in parallel halls. The first working group was on NGDI: Theories and Technologies and was chaired by Lt. Gen. A. K. Ahuja, Surveyor General of India and the second working group was on Applications and Potentials of NGDI and the session was chaired by D. P. Rao, Director, National Remote Sensing Agency.

On the second day, during the first half, a session was held on NGDI: Road Map for India. The session was chaired by Amitabh Pande, Joint Secretary, Department of Science and Technology. The session was interesting and comprehensive as it discussed various aspects of NGDI. The session started with a presentation by Basanta Shrestha, ICIMOD, Nepal on South Asian Perspective. During the session, on one hand Mukund Rao, Indian Space Research Organisation discussed the structure and composition of NSDI on other hand Ravi Gupta, Diector, CSDMS highlighted major challenges in the path of NGDI. There were two presentation on Public-Private Partnership one from Tat Infotech Ltd. and the other from Speck Systems Ltd. There was presentation on Training and Education by P. Nag, Director, NATMO. Legal issues were handled by Rahul Matthan, TRILEGAL and Financial aspects were elaborated by Alka Aharma, Survey of India.

The session was followed by an interesting panel discussion where participants contributed significantly through a very fruitful discussion. The discussion ranged from the controversy to call the data infrastructure-spatial or geo-spatia. Finally, it was agreed that the data infastructure will be known as National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). The legal and financial issues were deliberated at lengthand there was considerable focus on private sector participation in the process of developing NSDI.

During the valedictory session, two sub groups were constituted. One Standard subgroup that was to recommend data standards, metadata standards, exchange standards and the formats while the other Network subgroup was supposed to focus on technoloical issues connected with networking and accessibility. The need was also felt to evaluate the needs of Human Resource Development.

The workshop can be considered as a landmark development on two counts: one, it was a first public poser of Government of India on NGDI and second, is the release of a discussion document NSDI: Strategy and Action Plan. The discussion document was well received and appreciated during the workshop and held long term prospects in making NGDI a reality. The document is very comprehensive as it discusses not only the need, content, design elements of NSDI but also elaborates upon its organisational framework, funding mechanism and its implementation.