Geospatial technology holds immense potential in urban development. Durga Shankar Mishra, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development shares his experiences on the early days of geospatial technology and its critical role in citizen services in times to come
From paper to technology
25 years ago, as the chief development officer of Lucknow, I was involved in a number of development activities. Such activities generated tremendous amounts of data, on aspects like poverty alleviation, infrastructure, and drinking water. Despite having such a vast amount of data, one could not use it to get a larger picture – are things going on as desired? Are we taking our projects to the right places, for example, attending to the right pockets of poverty? I would then ask my team to plot details like roads and handpump locations on a piece of paper. Those days we did not have the kind of technology we have today; and with my IIT background, I thought that there should be a technology which can help us in our endeavour and ensure we reach the right people.
The power of visualisation
But now we have the power of geospatial technology to visualise things. The government has announced a number of projects in the urban development sector, including development of smart cities, renewal of mid level cities, and renewal of heritage cities. While we are finalising the specific concept of smart cities, one thing is clear – a smart city has to be a highly liveable city with a high quality of life for citizens. The citizens are not bothered about the infrastructure for services, for example, 24×7 drinking water, electricity, water drainage system, urban transport. What matters is the end result.
Technology is making it possible to visualise and facilitate such things. Geospatial technology has potential not just for the urban sector, but also revenue management. This can include house tax, water tax, taxes on advertisements. All such things can be visualised. Right now we are dependent on whatever information is available. However, numbers don’t speak much. As the proverb goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. One picture can give as much data as 1000 words or many pages. We are going to tap into this immense potential. Not that the technology is currently not being used. It is being used in different formats, but we have to use it in a big way – from planning to designing to construction. And then monitoring to see that the infrastructure is delivering as per expectations. We will be able to get more efficiency with much less cost and a high level of public satisfaction. All this is to ensure citizens’ happiness and that their lives become simpler.
Our lives have become very busy and our minds are working on a number of platforms. My request is, how to make the technology simpler and more and more cost effective. Because all the challenges of infrastructure like smart cities, railways etc are not going to be just government effort. It has to be a combined effort of the government and the public, or maybe only public. And everyone’s requirement would be technology that is cheap, efficient and is able to deliver what is expected out of it.
Our Prime Minister is technology savvy; he is taking the lead in utilising the benefits of geospatial technology. The Urban Development Ministry will be using this technology in different formats in the best possible way to provide best services, best quality of life, to our citizens.
(Excerpted from the speech delivered by him at GeoBuild Infrastructure conference in New Delhi)