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Neighbourhood Mapping

Amitabha pande

Amitabha pande
Joint Secretary,
Department of Science and Technology,
Government of India
[email protected]

Amitabha Pande shares his vision on the neighbourhood mapping programme, a major initiative of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India

In the inaugural address at the Map Asia Conference in August 2002, Prof Murli Manohar Joshi, Minister of Human Resource Development, Science and Technology and Ocean Development, Government of India had made some important statements that laid the initial foundations of a thought process, which now is on the brink of being realized. This is what he said:

“…As a part of the year of the celebration of the Great Arc, we have initiated an innovative programme for this purpose. Using the expert resources of the Survey of India, the Indian Space Research Organisation, various Institutes of Technology and University Departments of Geospatial Sciences and one of the organisers of the Map Asia Conference – Centre for Spatial Database Management & Solutions (CSDMS) – we intend to fan out to hundreds of schools and use teams of senior school children along with their teachers to start creating neighbourhood maps. The teams will be equipped both with conventional devices like compasses, plane table instruments, etc. as well as palmtop computers with a built-in GPS receiver to enable the school children to start mapping their neighbourhood. Mapping here will mean not only mapping of the terrain and the physical features, but also mapping of natural resources, cultural resources and traditional knowledge resources of the community. The village government, i.e. the Panchayat, will be integrally involved in the exercise so that the information generated feeds directly into the process of decentralized community governance. For the children, production of knowledge would become the primary means of learning. In other words, instead of learning geography and history and environmental sciences from books, children will learn by producing knowledge of relevance for their community. Hundreds of NGOs will be involved in the exercise to constantly mentor and champion the programme. The expert institutions will ensure that the knowledge so produced conforms to the highest standards of quality. It is expected that this will eventually become a national movement and each village will have a village spatial data infrastructure and a village GIS which has been created by the school children. I am sure, the revolutionary potential of such a spatial data infrastructure for achieving the complete socio-economic transformation of the community would be evident to all of you…”

In that backdrop, after months of brainstorming, preliminary preparations, planning and consensus seeking, a coherent vision and a programme has emerged.

The neighbourhood mapping project, soon to commence, is a judicious mix of ‘alternative educational concepts’ and the participation of school children in knowledge creation. It traverses multiple disciplines and skills and aims at using schools as a building block for societal improvement. Such an initiative from the government sets an apt example of the kind of changes we need to make science and technology an integral part of every citizen’s life. Perhaps it presages a change in our approach to governance itself ?

The knowledge base which the school children will create is not only for the community he lives in but also for a large number of people outside the community. Such a knowledge base is of high economic and commercial value. The sale of this information, whose ownership resides with community, is a potential revenue earner for the community itself.