Prof. Arup Dasgupta
January is the month when editors generally put on their thinking caps and look ahead to what the New Year may bring. It is about technology, applications, business opportunities, policies and game changers who might leap out of the wings and upset all the predictions. Therefore I will not join the crowd. Instead, let me talk about what I would look forward to in 2011. A young friend was discussing the issues related to research areas in cloud computing and he commented that there is a distinct disconnect between what industry thinks is important and what academia and research scientists considers technically challenging. Are there similar disconnects in the geospatial world? I think there are.
There is a growing disconnect between what the public and casual user wants from the geospatial world and what the policy makers are ready to make available. Policy makers are data-centric and too much taken up with accuracy, authority and control of data. Undoubtedly, these are needed in the context of governance but the public also want services that make their lives easier in a complex world. As a result, technological capability and applications are outpacing policy and this disconnect is slowing down efforts like the SDI. We may argue that SDI is about data infrastructure but then, isn’t infrastructure about providing services? In the end policy should not become a roadblock to the growth of business opportunities.
In most Asian countries, finding an address is like playing hide and seek. In India, we use the bhaisaab network which entails accosting another person with a query, “Bhaisaab, can you direct me to ..…?” This was effective at a time when maps were unavailable; if available, dated; and if current, inaccurate. Today we have maps on our handphones but the data remains sketchy at best. Clearly, there is a need for address geocoding but apart from some work going on in Microsoft lab, I am yet to come across any serious work in this direction in India. I am sure that Google, Navteq and all the other map providers in India would like this service, yet the academia does not think it is challenging enough – even for a graduate level project.
In another scenario, academia suffers from chronic fund shortage, courtesy the government, which precludes them from setting up adequate laboratory facilities and keeping the systems up-to-date. Data is another issue as the commercial costing is beyond the reach of most institutes. This results in students being denied the latest in terms of technology and applications. Industry on the other hand complains that the students coming out of institutes are not properly equipped to work in operational projects.
We thus see that there is a government-industry disconnect, an industry-academia disconnect and an academia-government disconnect. The user falls in the centre of this triangle of disconnects and suffers lack of effective services.
My wish for 2011 is that the three players examine these disconnects and work towards a resolution that will help all of them and the users.