The Government of India is inclined to bring in reforms in the country to make it more prepared for the future and Geospatial reforms are one of the major reforms the Government is looking at. A major step in this direction is the recent announcement of encouraging Public Private Partnership in Space.
Inclined to make valuable contribution to the formulation of reformed policies, Geospatial Media organized a Virtual Summit on Geospatial and Earth Observation Industrial Policy for India on June 18,2020. The aim of the Summit was to deliberate and gather inputs from the leaders in the industry and make suggestions to the Government for creating a an impactful policy.
Moderated by Sanjay Kumar, Founder & CEO, Geospatial Media and Communications and Secretary General and CEO, World Geospatial Industry Council, the session opened with a powerful keynote from Prof. K. Vijayraghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor, Government of India. He said, “In today’s world there’s no aspect as important as the connection, sharing, interpretation and application of Geospatial knowledge and this covers the whole range.” We agree with this completely, however, as we all are aware there lies some obstacles in the path.
As Prof. Vijayraghavan pointed out, the growth is limited by the view that Geospatial data in itself is of great worth and thus needs to be protected. Many people compare data with oil. No doubt, data is valuable but unlike oil, data cannot be possessed by individuals. You can sell little bit of oil but your little bit of data is useful only when it is connected with others. Thus, interaction is important between agencies-public and private. However, at the same time, you cannot loosen up too much on sharing as that can lead to misuse. Government and Industry must work together to strengthen the Indian economy. Policies should be comprehensive, enabling, transparent and at the heart of it, data should benefit everyone.
Lt. Gen Girish Kumar VSM, Surveyor General, Survey of India corroborated this thought by sharing, “Initiating Public Private Partnership (PPP) in the realm of Geospatial infrastructure development is a very welcome step by the Government of India. This kind of partnership will eliminate our dependency on foreign countries for earth observation data and imagery. Such partnership will benefit all. Building on Geospatial infrastructure is critical for development and PPP will be useful. We must identify sectors of partnership and proceed within the framework of Government of India’s guidelines. Survey of India is already thinking in this direction.”
Dr. A S Kiran Kumar, Former Chairman of ISRO and Member Space Commission, Government of India, stressed on the importance of PPP by saying, “Geospatial Industry related activities are making huge strides. Geospatial technology is playing a very important role in planning, monitoring, weather prediction, migration, transport, advertisement etc. and the economy is so much dependent on the effective use of the Geospatial technology and tools that are available. COVID-19 has shown us that things need to be done at a quick pace and government alone cannot do this. Only when the government collaborates with the private enterprises, which bring with them efficiency, speed of doing things and new investments, we will be able to tackle the problems post COVID-19. We must bring in synergy.”
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Dr. BVR Mohan Reddy, Founder & Executive Chairman, Cyient, India brought a different but interesting perspective on the PPP model with respect to the Geospatial Infrastructure. He said, “I have some reservations of having a PPP model in the traditional sense in the Geospatial realm. PPP is usually done in case of large scale projects. It is also very necessary to specify the risks extensively in PPP. In case of Geospatial projects, it becomes very difficult to specify the same. PPP also requires external finance. Since the Geospatial software and solutions industry doesn’t have real assets, it becomes very difficult for the banking sector to provide finance.”
He added, “It’s not necessary that the Government and the private sector have to get into a model where they co-invest, co-work. Let the infrastructure get created by the Government and they license it to the business world and they add more data to it if required or applications on top of it. The Government gives the private sector updated accurate data and the private sector in return gives loyalty. That’s the model, I believe would work very well in the shorter term till we mature enough to work in the traditional PPP model. That should be the move forward strategy.”
KK SINGH, Founder & Chairman, Rolta India added to the discussion by highlighting, “Convergence and integration of Geospatial technology with various informational systems is playing a critical role in decision making and problem solving across a wide spectrum. The most significant change in the Geospatial environment is not from a single technology but from a combination and interplay between multiple technologies like Cloud, IoT, Big Data, Mobility, AI etc. It is now well accepted by the industry and the governments that embedding Geospatial technologies in information modelling, analytics and actionable intelligence has greatly increased the value and quality of decision making through enhanced visualisation and location analytics. The developed world has already endorsed and created mechanisms to open up the geographic information to all critical sectors of the economy. In India, public private partnership is urgently required for unleashing the full potential of these technologies to reach the double digit growth of our GDP.”
“However, private enterprises must be provided complete freedom in terms of innovation , creation of software packages, creation of data, and creation of products and solutions which can be utilised by multifarious agencies not only in India but world over because any particular business model cannot be based on economy of just one country. The policies should be less controlling. Restrictions should be there for sensitive areas but not everywhere. PPP alone will not work. It has to be PPP with a combination with freedom for the industry.”
After hearing his views, it can be easily concluded that the private sector is of the view that the ecosystem is still not mature enough for a traditional PPP model to work effectively for Geospatial Infrastructure.
Dr. Kiran Kumar Rao concludes the discussion by aptly saying that the approach of the government should be to able to build trust towards the private sector. Data sharing needs to become easy with restrictions wherever necessary. This is vital for the overall growth of the economy. Opening up of the thoughts processes and working collaboratively is the necessity today for creating a better scenario for tomorrow.