V S Ramamurthy
Department of science and technology government of india
What is the essence of the National Map Policy?
Spatial data has always played a central role in development programmes. It acts as a crucial support system for decision-making for many application areas and specifically for development. The growth of various other technologies over the last two decades has enabled common man to a great extent. With advances in communication technology, computational techniques and visual display technologies, today the use of complex data and its analysis have become possible by non-experts. Restrictions of free flow of spatial information engender high opportunity costs for any community and especially a developing economy like India. In view of emerging needs and trends, the national map policy was formulated and passed recently. Government of India has been looking into this for a long time. The essence is to bring maps and map data to anyone in need of it, with due respect to national security interests.
How does the new map policy strike this balance between security interests and development needs?
We should not forget that the source and start of most spatial data generation exercises were for military reasons. And the fact remains that such data are sensitive for national security. The times have changed and developments needs are a priority today. The solution is in creating two series of maps with information relevant to the users – civilians and military men. Subsequently Open Series Maps (OSM) and Defense Series Maps (DSM) were envisioned. The ones in the public domain will be in UTM Projection on WGS-84 datum. The Defense series maps shall be on Everest/WGS-84 Datum and Polyconic/UTM Projection. The OSM shall be good enough for any development activities. Further the Ministry of Defense shall sanitize these OSM in a one-time effort.
What do you see as the immediate implications of the policy?
The main objective of the policy was to increase accessibility of data. Hence once this has been done, there should be more flow of data to the ones in need of it. In the process, all development activities carried out by government or even the private can utilize these maps in their workflows. This shall also mean a lot to the GIS industry as this gives them the opportunity to procure maps of their need, add value to it, and then utilize it as per requirements of the organisation. There is a massive potential for the industry, if they want to get hold of it.
The use of OSMs will be through a process of registration. Is this not a kind of extension of the existing steps?
Not exactly. Initially it might seem so, but it is a very basic process that is followed anywhere and does not involve any hassle for the user. The users simply share some basic details so that there is a record of who has used what. This should not be a problem for any user with right intentions.
How exactly is the NMP going to help the industry?
The role envisioned for the industry is to partner and provide support in all the key activities and needs of the mapping and GIS community of the country. In the process they can team up with government anytime and add value. This sector is the key to the success of the policy and needs to play a proactive role.
The NMP does not talk about satellite imageries. Why this silence?
It is true that there need to be a similar step that ensures that space based data is easily flowing and reaching the end users, specially the development sector. The Department of Space and the related agencies are the right people to throw light on this aspect. I am sure the National Map Policy is going to change a lot of things and set the ball rolling.
When do you think the OSM shall be available entirely (also digitally)?
The data provided by Survey of India primarily falls under this policy. Hence, Survey of India shall be providing all available products as per the policy. Whatever is unavailable is getting made so that common man starts to reap the benefits as soon as possible. All concerned departments are at work to ensure this. Ministry of Defense is also working on the one-time clearance. The NSDI shall be the base where standards shall be set to streamline the effects of the policy. You shall be able to see the positive effects of the policy in 6 months.