GIS and Remote Sensing have traditionally been seen as ‘high-tech’ top-down tools used mainly by the decision-maker, typically a government official at local, state or central level.
Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) like the Internet without differentiating the type of user based on caste, creed, education or hierarchy is a miracle of sorts in many traditional societies. This, coupled with the telecom revolution, first through PCOs and lately through cell phones sweeping the country, is fuelling new types of ICT applications in which users are not necessarily the government sector but the common citizen.
This ICT ‘revolution’ is metamorphing GIS just as the personal computer did in the last decade. We now see GIS applications running on laptops, mobiles and hand-helds. It is the new hot thing for vehicle navigation, becoming visible in more and more cars, everyday. The software systems are getting increasingly interactive and information flow is changing from one to one, to one to many, to many to many.
In this digital savvy world, the rate at which technology is changing is stupendous. Additionally, the new technology seems to penetrate both faster and more exhaustively than that which it replaces. The opportunity that this provides for GIS to ‘come along for the ride’ is mind-boggling.
Developing countries like India, which have lagged in PC penetration due to underdeveloped computer hardware industry have immense opportunity to leapfrog and bridge the digital divide and benefit by using the latest ICT tools and technologies. We need the right ideas and applications to address the problems and challenges of common man.
Can we meet this challenge?